This Sunday is a rematch between the Colts and the Broncos. The winner moves on to the AFC Championship game. Billed as Luck vs Manning III, this match up between the Colts and Broncos has the most meaning out of any of their past match ups. The hype of Luck vs Manning is all the league has been talking about the past three years. The first match up, back in October 2013, saw Peyton come home to Lucas Oil Stadium. Luck and the Colts would win that game, 39-33. Not to be outdone, Peyton got his revenge against his former team this past September, in the first game of the season. The Broncos jumped out to a 24-0 lead and held on to win, despite a great comeback attempt from Luck and company. Now comes the biggest game of the season, for both teams.
Back in 2011, Peyton Manning had four neck surgeries,nobody knew what the long-term effects would be for the future hall of famer. Peyton missed the first full season of his NFL Career and the Colts suffered, going 2-14. Then, on March 7th, 2012 Jim Irsay decided it was time to let Peyton go, based on the circumstances regarding his neck surgeries. The move shocked not only Colts fans, but all football fans as well. The hero, the legend, was now gone. The man who helped take the Colts from the basement of the NFL to title contenders, the leader of the franchise for 14 years, was now a free agent. Thirteen days later, on March 20, 2012, Peyton Manning became a Denver Bronco. The Broncos had gone from Tim Tebow to Peyton Manning, and were now officially a title contender. As Denver celebrated, the city of Indianapolis was still shell-shocked. The Colts had just let go of the greatest player in franchise history, the franchise make-over had begun. This included acquiring a new general manager and head coach. It seemed like dark days were looming on the horizon for the Colts.
The Indianapolis Colts had the worst record in the NFL in 2011, and so they earned the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. On April 26, 2012, the Andrew Luck era officially began in Indianapolis. Coming out of Stanford, Luck was tabbed as the most pro ready qb coming out of college since, none other than Peyton Manning. The comparisons between Luck and Manning were nonstop, and are still talked about today. As the Luck era began in 2012, not many people around the league had picked the Colts to win more than 6 games. With a new general manager in Ryan Grigson, a rookie head coach in Chuck Pagano, and a rookie qb in Andrew Luck, it was easy to see why many people had doubts about the Colts. Luck and the Colts shocked the NFL by going 11-5, and making the playoffs. Luck had a sensational rookie season, breaking the rookie passing record with 4,375 yards. Though the Colts would lose in the first round of the playoffs, everybody around the league had taken notice. The Colts haven’t looked back since, winning two straight AFC South titles, and going to the playoffs in each of Luck’s three seasons. He is the leader of this team now, and he has brought them a lot of success. If you compare Luck and Manning’s first three years as Colts, Luck comes out on top. Andrew has also arguably done this with less talent than Peyton had in his first three years in Indianapolis. The sky is the limit for this young man, he can take another step this Sunday by defeating Peyton Manning in the playoffs and coming one step closer to the Super Bowl.
On the other side, Peyton has also proved his doubters wrong. Not many believed Peyton would be the same again after his neck procedures. Since joining the Denver Broncos, Peyton has broken several NFL records, including most touchdown passes in a season, most passing yards in a season, and most career touchdown passes. Peyton has played outstanding with Denver the past three seasons, and continues to bolster his legacy. Peyton also has a ridiculous amount of weapons in Denver. Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and Julius Thomas comprise his formidable receiving core. The Broncos will continue to be title contenders for the next few seasons, as long as Manning stays healthy. Peyton is already a future first ballot hall of famer, who continues to amaze at the age of 38. Denver took a gamble on Peyton, and it has paid off for them. The Broncos have won the AFC West all three years, and made an appearance in the Super Bowl last year.
Now, onto this Sunday. This is going to be an entertaining game to watch. The Colts got off to a slow start in week 1, falling behind 24-0, and making costly mistakes during the course of the game. Luck threw for 370 and two scores in that game, but also threw two interceptions. Manning threw three touchdowns and no interceptions. Luck has to be at his very best on Sunday if the Colts are going to win this game. The Colts have to get pressure early and often on Peyton Manning, and bring different blitz packages. If Peyton is standing in the pocket with no pressure and has time to throw, the Colts will be in for a long day. This is going to be a great game. Luck vs Manning. Colts vs Broncos. Winner advances to the AFC Championship game, and comes one step closer to the ultimate goal, Super Bowl 49.