Peyton Manning: 5 Games That Will Decide the Denver Broncos Star's Season
Although he has played a few snaps in the preseason thus far, many are anxious to see the future Hall of Fame quarterback play a full game.
With the Indianapolis Colts dumping him to rebuild with No. 1-overall pick Andrew Luck, Manning has a lot to prove this year, starting with showing that he has fully recovered from neck surgery.
Quite arguably one of the most important seasons in Manning's career, here are five games that will decide the Broncos star's season.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers. September 9
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
The Broncos are "lucky" enough to open their season against the Pittsburgh Steelers and their monster defense.
With the Steelers' great ability to apply pressure on a quarterback, this is sure to be a test for Manning and his new offense.
Because it will be his first game since the 2010 season, it'll be interesting to see if Manning is able to shake off all the rust in the preseason. Of course, this comes at no easy task as he will be playing one of the best defenses in the league.
The key in this game is to see how Manning responds after a big tackle. If his neck is able to hold up and he can still perform, it is a good sign for both Manning and the Broncos.
If he takes a big hit, and his neck keeps him off the field, we may be looking at the end of the future Hall of Fame quarterback's career.
2. Houston Texans. September 23
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Peyton's former divisional rival comes to visit Mile High in Week 3 of the NFL season.
The last time Manning met with the Texans in 2010, they split the season series 1-1. Even in the Colts' loss to the Texans, Manning had an incredible game, throwing for 433 yards and three touchdowns.
For much of Peyton's career in Indianapolis, he was able to dominate the Texans, as he has gone 16-2 against them and thrown for 42 touchdowns against them.
Although they are no longer in the same division and considering the competitor that Peyton Manning is, you've got to believe that he wants to show that he hasn't lost a step and still has the upper hand against the Texans.
3. New England Patriots. October 7
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Ah. The Brady-Manning rivalry.
Dating back to the days when Peyton led the Colts to the playoffs what seemed like every year, and would later face the Patriots in the playoffs in what seemed like every year.
Together they have accumulated for six MVP's in eight years, while Tom Brady has the upper hand in head-to-head matchups with an 8-5 record against Manning.
This game is sure to be another Brady-Manning classic, as these two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks meet again for another duel.
4. San Diego Chargers. October 15 & November 18
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
In his career against Norv Turner and Philip Rivers, Manning has accumulated a 1-4 record, dating back to 2007.
With a total of 10 touchdowns and 13 interceptions during that time, it seems that Norv Turner just finds a way to beat Manning.
Now, being able to play the Chargers twice in one year, Peyton has a chance to redeem himself and prove that he can beat the Chargers, especially now that they are in his division.
5. Kansas City Chiefs. December 30.
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Sure, the Chiefs are a divisional rival, but that is not what makes this game significant.
What makes this specific game so important is that this is the regular-season finale for the Broncos in the 2012 season.
If Peyton can make it this far into the season, it will prove that he has a healthy neck, and that he is able to play.
One of the biggest question marks this season is how long Manning's neck holds up, and if he can last a full season. If he is able to play to this point of the season, it should be considered a success because despite the uncertainty a neck injury brings, he was able to undergo the physicality of a NFL season and last.
Sure, the Broncos may be in a tight division race at this point, but Manning's health should be a priority because of his ability to transform a team into a playoff contender.