Peyton Manning never would have thought he needed to prove himself 13 years into his Hall of Fame career. But after setting the bar so high for over a decade, Manning's hit a rough patch, and for the first time in a long time the Colts are fighting to make the playoffs.
Manning has thrown 11 interceptions in his last three games—all of which were Colts losses—and most of the picks were completely Manning's fault.
Since when can't Manning read a defense and then completely dissect it?
He's undoubtedly been affected by the rash of Colts injuries, especially at wide receiver and tight end, but we're used to Peyton performing weekly miracles no matter who's on the playing field.
The game against the Titans this week is obviously critical for the Indianapolis' playoff chances, but is more crucial to Manning, who needs to deliver a message to the rest of the league that he's not washed up and is still one of the top two signal callers in the NFL.
Manning as an afterthought is nearly incomprehensible, but the timing of his "slump" couldn't be any worse.
His arch-rival Tom Brady, 33, has led his Patriots to four consecutive wins without a star-studded group of wide receivers.
In those games, Brady has tossed 13 touchdowns without any interceptions.
No. 12 is playing like an energetic 29-year-old, while Manning looks like an out-of-sync 39-year-old.
I'm not sure if the title as league's top quarterback means much to Manning, but Brady's doing his part to make the argument rather one-sided.
Sure, Manning has struggled in the postseason against the NFL's elite, but in the regular season he's been a football-slinging hero.
All eyes will be on No. 18, but this time we'll watch to see if his streak of frequent mistakes continues, not in anticipation of another majestic performance.
Divisional road games in prime time are never easy, but Tennessee's secondary is among the league's worst (allowing 238.7 yards through the air), and if Manning is indeed the same Peyton we've grown accustom to, he should have a big night.
Manning has played in a countless number of "huge" contests during his years in Indianapolis, but at this point in his career, the 34-year-old icon might be playing in his biggest regular season game in a while.
Who would have thought the game would be when his team was 6-6, playing a 5-7 team on the road?
We've rarely doubted Manning before, but with criticism surrounding him, Peyton needs this game more than ever.
Even if it is only to get his swagger back.