Peyton Manning lost his first career start with the Indianapolis Colts. Of course, that was way back in 1998, when he was doing what Andrew Luck is aspiring to do this year. But history sometimes has a way of repeating itself, and Manning will soon be 0-2 in his first career starts for new teams.
Playing on this Denver Broncos team is going to give Peyton a chance to ride off into the sunset the way he envisioned in Indianapolis. With solid ownership, a youthful defense, a running back-by-committee approach and some underrated weapons on offense, this is looking more and more like the Colts teams of the 2000s by the day.
However, this won't be the storybook beginning to that ride that Manning wants.
Playing the Steelers in December, when you've had all season to prepare for their defense, running game and big play receivers is a struggle.
Try playing them on opening night, with a new quarterback fresh off of neck surgery and the weight of the people of Denver who just had one of the most iconic figures of our time (Tim Tebow) pulled out from under them, only to be replaced by maybe the greatest QB of his generation.
It has nothing to do with the Broncos.
They will win the AFC West and squeeze into the playoffs this year. Manning is that good, and his impact stretches that far across the scope of what a team can accomplish.
But Pittsburgh will be too much for the new AFC West favorites. Denver gave up nearly 126 yards per game on the ground last season. Whether Rashard Mendenhall plays or not, the Steelers are going to use the run to set up everything they do.
To make things worse for Denver, the Steelers again finished as the league's best defense, stymieing passing offenses to a mere 171 per game and allowing less than 100 on the ground in 2011.
Additionally, I'm in the camp that thinks Manning might fade late in this ball game. The mile high air is rough for anyone, especially a QB used to a dome for eight games a year and not coming off season-ending neck surgery in 2011. Yes, he has a 3-1 career record playing in Denver, but those games are irrelevant to the new team he has in place.
If the Broncos do have an advantage over the Steelers, it's in the injury department, where James Harrison, Mendenhall and Larry Foote are all questionable. Safety Ryan Clark is also out, due to a condition that makes him unable to participate in the thin air.
The Broncos will enter the game two point favorites at home. But I don't think they'll leave the stadium Sunday night with the same outcome, as Pittsburgh will ruin Manning's home opener and prove its depth down the stretch on the road.
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