When the day began for Peyton Manning, he was Brock Osweiler’s backup. He’d had a rough of of it all year, on the field and off. It seemed at least possible that his glorious and admirable NFL career could end with him as a spectator, injuries having robbed him of one last full-fledged run at the Super Bowl.
But when Osweiler faltered against the Chargers, number 18 came off the bench for the first time in his 18-year career, and he came to his team’s rescue.
As if that wasn’t enough, the stars aligned elsewhere. The Patriots, the team that has so often blocked Manning’s path, were once 10-0, but now they’ve lost four of six, and don’t seem so formidable. And with today’s loss at Miami, they relinquish the number one seed to Denver.
And while for the moment coach Gary Kubiak won’t say who his starter will be two weeks from now, it’s hard to believe it won’t be Manning, which would set up the following very theatrical scenario. The fading legend, his body battered and skills seemingly diminished, now has two more weeks to get closer to 100%.
His team has home-field advantage, and while the Broncos are not a powerhouse, they are a plausible favorite at home against any potential AFC opponent in this postseason.
Suddenly then, instead of farewell parties and lifetime achievement awards, Peyton Manning is right back in the mix, with a reasonable shot at what until just now seemed out of question — another appearance on his sport’s biggest stage.