Broncos QB Peyton Manning will practice today, for the first time since being removed from a disastrous game against the Chiefs and put up on the shelf to let his various bruises and tears heal. He is not expected to play this weekend—Brock Osweiler is still the starter, but probably not for long.
Gary Kubiak made the announcement yesterday, and it’s a reflection more of Manning’s medical progress than of any hints toward the team’s plans. Manning’s body really started to break down this year, but it was a partially torn foot ligament that finally forced him out—amid a career-worst start to his season—and put him in a hard cast and then a walking boot for few weeks. But things are progressing quickly: Manning was cleared to resume throwing drills last week, and returned to the sideline on Sunday for the first time since the injury, earpiece in so he could get back up to speed on the playcalling.
It’ll be interesting to see what Denver does when Manning is ready to play. I’m sure they will hand him the starter’s job, but should they? The Broncos are 3-1 in games started by Osweiler, but he’s stalled at bit over the last two games. Denver hasn’t scored an offensive touchdown in its last 23 possessions, not since the opening drive two Sundays ago.
Osweiler has better numbers than Manning, but not overwhelmingly so anywhere save interception rate. In Osweiler’s defense, he’s still getting used to this—you’d expect him to get better as he gets more starts under his belt. And on Manning’s side is the perhaps optimistic belief that many of his struggles this year could be attributed to his injuries, especially his inability to push off his foot and get any zip on his throws.
The Broncos are two games up on the Chiefs with three to play, so it’s probably only their Dec. 28 game against the similarly 10-3 Bengals that will matter before the postseason. Osweiler goes against the Steelers Sunday. After that? Barring a setback, Manning could make his return in a nationally televised game with a playoff bye on the line.