In March of 2012, the Indianapolis Colts informed quarterback Peyton Manning that he'd be released after 14 seasons of service. It marked the end of an era that included one Super Bowl title, two Super Bowl appearances, four regular-season MVP awards and eight division crowns.
On Sunday, Oct. 20, Manning will make his triumphant return to Lucas Oil Stadium by leading the Denver Broncos to a win over the Colts.
According to Jarrett Bell of USA Today, the Colts will honor Manning with an undisclosed tribute. It's certainly welcome after Manning became one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the NFL while serving as Indianapolis' field general.
In 2013, Manning is reminding the world of why he's destined to be a first-ballot Hall of Fame selection.
Peyton Manning is UNSTOPPABLE. This time he finds Wes Welker for TD. Peyton's 22 Pass TD are the most through 6 games in NFL history.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 13, 2013
It's been as great as the numbers suggest.
Through six games, Manning has completed 74.2 percent of his passes for 2,179 yards, 22 touchdowns and two interceptions. Each one of those numbers ranks No. 1 amongst full-time starting quarterbacks, leading to his topping the league with a passer rating of 128.8.
Which team will win?
Drew Brees ranks No. 2 at 110.6.
On Sunday, Manning will look to take down the team that he carried for more than a decade. It will be emotional, but when it's all said and done, the impact that the Colts vs. Broncos game has will be significantly more important than Manning's return.
This game could go a long way toward determining which team finishes atop the AFC.
Manning has led the Broncos to a 6-0 start with every game being decided by 16 points or more. The Colts, meanwhile, are 4-1 with Luck leading victories over the likes of the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks.
Per Darren Rovell of ESPN, both Denver and Indianapolis are Super Bowl favorites:
Super Bowl odds at Las Vegas Hotel: Broncos 2/1, Seahawks & Saints 9/2, Pats & 49ers 7/1, Packers 12/1, Bengals, Colts & Chiefs 20/1— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) October 14, 2013
Plain and simple, this is the dream setting for the first meeting between Luck and Manning.
Denver has struggled to defend the pass, but with the top-ranked passing offense and the No. 1 rushing defense, there's a reason the Broncos are viewed as the best team in the NFL. With a healthy Champ Bailey and a rejuvenated Knowshon Moreno, the Broncos have nothing short of a balanced attack.
Through six weeks, Moreno has seven rushing touchdowns and five players have at least 30 receptions. Moreno also has 20 receptions, and Manning has found five separate players for touchdown passes.
All in all, Denver's offense is too much for any team to handle.
There will be dramatic moments before, during and after Manning's return to Indianapolis, but when it's all said and done, he'll win the first Luck vs. Manning meeting. Denver's offense is a well-oiled machine, the defense is finally getting its stars back and revenge must be on the legend's mind.
One way or another, this is a game that you need to watch.