The neck injury that sidelined Manning for the entire 2011 season was no small matter. There were many who thought he'd never play another down in the NFL, what with his age and number of games played over 13 long years.
Manning has come back to a fairly strong Denver unit, but one that does not possess the weapons of his old Colts teams. That, coupled with his continued transition to a new team, makes it a reasonable conclusion he will struggle Monday night against the high-powered Falcons.
The Atlanta defense struggled in the fist half against the Chiefs on Sunday, allowing Jamaal Charles and Matt Cassel to put up impressive numbers with little to no resistance. Coach Mike Smith made a few tweaks to the game plan at halftime, and the results were impressive. (The defense forced three turnovers in addition to sacks from John Abaraham and Jonathan Babineaux.) Stephen Nicholas and Sean Weatherspoon were also strong at linebacker. Brent Grimes may be out for the year, but the Falcons still have talent on the defensive side of the ball.
The Falcons are a team, defensively, who can get after the quarterback and disrupt a team on all three levels. Their linebackers are talented; Ray Edwards does a good job clogging the middle of the line, and Dunta Robinson can make plays in the secondary.
Denver didn't exactly light it up through the air or on the ground against Pittsburgh. Willis McGahee had only 16 carries for 64 yards, and Demaryius Thomas is the only real threat to extend the defense, as he totaled 110 yards receiving in Week 1.
Peyton only threw for 253 yards, and with a running game that is usually hit or miss, I don't expect them to move the ball with ease against the Falcons.
Peyton may be back and playing solid football, but he'll be hard-pressed to find many openings in Atlanta come Monday night.