Broncos vs. Colts: 7 Eerie Moments Colts Fans Need to Prepare For

Russell Puntenney@@RussPuntContributor IIIOctober 16, 2013

Broncos vs. Colts: 7 Eerie Moments Colts Fans Need to Prepare For

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    Seventeen months may have passed since the Indianapolis Colts released quarterback Peyton Manning, but for most fans in "Naptown," the wound is still fresh.

    Not that anyone should feel sorry for folks in the Hoosier state, of course. All the team has done in the year-and-a-half since that once unthinkable development transpired is draft the most sought after NFL prospect, since Manning himself, in quarterback Andrew Luck, returned to the playoffs and completely rebounded into legitimate contenders.

    But to think that series of blessings somehow erases the allegiance Colts fans built toward a player as special as Peyton Manning over 13 marvelous seasons is a misconception at best.

    That being the case, Sunday’s matchup against the Denver Broncos in which Manning returns to the city that worshipped him for over a decade for the first time since his release is going to be all sorts of weird for everyone involved, and the emotional impact of seeing your former hero line up for the opposing team is something no Colts fan should be taking lightly as kickoff grows rapidly near.

    This isn’t Brett Favre returning to Lambeau. This is Peyton Manning. There were so many tears at this guy’s final press conference, the city issued a flood warning. People who don’t even follow football broke down upon viewing it. Imagine what the people in Indianapolis must have thought.

    Better yet, imagine what they’ll be thinking the second they turn on their TVs this Sunday and see…

7. Peyton Manning in a Different Uniform

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    Yes, Manning has been sporting new threads for well over a year now, but still. You know how sometimes the only way to cure a phobia is to confront the thing head on?

    That’s what this game is for Colts fans who still yet have to process the reality that Peyton now plays for another team. It’s like bumping into your ex with her new boyfriend for the first time. You’ve heard the rumors. You’ve seen the photos of them together on ESPN. But now here they are, right in front of your face, removing any doubt that your worst fears really have come true.

    Sure, Colts fans have a new flame themselves, and things are doing great, but is it really so crazy to think that some of them may still be seeking closure from their first love before moving on?

    They’ll get it this Sunday whether they like it or not.

6. Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne

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    Believe it or not, nostalgia may actually be in short supply this Sunday from Peyton’s perspective, as the Colts team he’s coming to play against is almost completely different than the one he left.

    Sure, owner Jim Irsay will still be there to gather inspiration for a semi-legible tweet he’ll fire off at 2 a.m. later that night like a psychopath, but as for the team itself, very few of these guys were around even two years ago when Manning last graced Indy’s roster, let alone during his heyday the decade prior.

    But you know who was? Reggie Wayne, that’s who. From 2001 to 2010, Manning connected with Wayne 787 times for over 10,000 yards and 69 touchdowns, and even though most people expected the All-Pro wideout to be one of the first to leave when Indy gutted its roster after the dreadful 2011 season, No. 87 surprised everyone by staying put and even more so by continuing to play at the same elite level.

    Manning and Wayne go together like video games and Mountain Dew, and while their on-field relationship may not have been as productive as Manning and Marvin Harrison, whose combined 114 touchdowns are still, by far, the most between any quarterback-receiver tandem in NFL history, it was still pretty amazing to behold.

    It'll be equally amazing seeing them playing on the same field again this Sunday for the first time since 2010, plus, unlike Harrison, Wayne actually interacts with his teammates and has yet to be linked to even one attempted murder. Bonus points.

    Who else is Peyton going to reminisce with about the old days? Robert Mathis? Adam Vinatieri? Sure, they have a history, but nothing like the natural co-dependency between quarterback and receiver.

    At some point during Sunday’s contest, these two are going to man-hug in front of everyone and remind every Colts fan just how great they had it for such a long time.

    Keep your Kleenex handy.

5. Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck

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    Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    It’s entirely possible Sunday’s game could be the only NFL meeting between Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck, and if so, that’ll be a shame. Never before have two players born 13 years apart and not related to each other been linked quite as permanently as these two quarterbacks, and every time sports fans get to witness a matchup between them, it’s going to be a spectacle even bigger than the last.

    Their similarities as players were shoved down our collective throats so often in the lead-up to last year’s draft that you probably wished you’d never hear either of their names again for the rest of your life.

    And the parallel career trajectories both have been on, literally since the day they were born, are downright spooky in retrospect. Both are sons of NFL quarterbacks. Both garnered national attention breaking records in college. Both were drafted No. 1 overall, by the Colts no less, and both started as rookies in their very first game.

    To Colts fans, however, the association between Manning and Luck is not only more meaningful, it’s also simpler: Manning is the past, and Luck is the future. Manning the father, Luck the son. There’s no scenario quite like it in the history of football.

    Joe Montana vs. Steve Young is probably the closest, but Young definitely didn’t burst onto the scene the way Luck has, plus there was genuine animosity between those guys, something Luck and Manning are incapable of feeling for all we know.

    This isn’t some back-alley grudge match, it’s Forrest Gump vs. Ned Flanders. They’re the two most polite football players of their respective generations. They admire each other. They praise each other. Hell, they enjoy each other’s company.

    You think Manning and Luck have handled the inevitable juxtaposition of their careers with class so far? Ha! Just wait ‘till you see them congratulate each other mid-field after Sunday’s game then secretly wage a compliment competition between themselves during the press conference afterward (basically the bizarro version of this).

    That’s when the transfer of power in Indianapolis will officially be complete.

4. Peyton Manning Wins, Colts Lose (Or Vice Versa)

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    Talk about a Catch-22. The mixed emotions all Colts fans feel about this game will inevitably reach a tipping point as soon as the winner is determined, because no matter how it all plays out, they’ll end up facing a conundrum.

    Let’s face it: Peyton Manning is probably going to win this game. (What else is new?) For him to do that, however, the Colts will have to lose. So what does that mean for the fans in Indianapolis who want the best for both, the team that represents them and the former face of their franchise?

    Well, frankly, it means they’re among the luckiest fanbases in the NFL, at least for this one game.

    Sure, Colts fans could pick a side and sulk about finally having to experience what it’s like being on the other side of Manning’s dominance, but why on Earth would they?

    This game represents one of those ultra-rare chances in life where you really can have it both ways. If the Colts win, fans will rejoice, but if they don’t, at least the guy who beats them will be their hands-down favorite non-Colt in the league, Peyton Manning.

    Sunday’s game should be the most carefree, lighthearted matchup Colts fans ever experience. Luck vs. Manning? At home? In the middle of a season in which both seemed poised for playoff berths no matter what happens?

    Forget the final score. With a setup like that, Colts fans have already won.

3. Peyton Manning Looking Better Than Ever

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    As traumatic as it was for Colts fans to watch their team basically tell one of the greatest players in NFL history to go take a hike (in not so many words), there were a few silver linings to be found when Peyton Manning was released.

    For one thing, Andrew “Rocket Scientist” Luck. (Or should it be "Andrew the Giant"?)

    Enough said.

    Also, clearly, Manning didn’t even want to stick around for the rebuilding project that was inevitably about to take place in Indianapolis, so the move made sense for him too. Huge weight lifted for Colts fans.

    As much as they don’t want to admit it, however, there was another unspoken reason the people in Indianapolis suppressed the urge to raid Colts headquarters the day Manning was cut: As far as anyone knew at the time, his best days were behind him. Or at least, they were supposed to be.

    Apparently someone forgot to tell Manning, because somehow, at the age of 37, he’s playing so lights-out right now, he’s legitimately threatening to upstage the 13 years he spent revolutionizing the sport in Indianapolis and to make this stage of his career—any normal player’s twilight years —the one for which he’s best remembered.

    Think about it. When the Colts released Manning, nobody knew if he’d ever play again. His recovery from neck surgery went about as well as a horror movie (at one point, he resorted to experimental stem-cell treatments that still aren’t even available in this hemisphere), and the consensus was that even if he did return, it would only be to add a mere footnote to his time in Indianapolis.

    That’s where Manning’s true legacy lied, where history was destined to immortalize him—not as a Bronco or a Dolphin or whatever, but as an Indianapolis Colt—as the Indianapolis Colt.

    Two short years later, however, and suddenly even that once-safe assumption has been called into question. That’s how good Manning has been since his return, and in case you forgot during the last paragraph, he’s doing it at the age of 37. How insane is that?

    It’s not like he was ever anything short of incredible to begin with, and he’s still getting better? What’s he going to be like when he’s 42? 45? Could we be looking at the future first quinquagenarian player in NFL history?     

    Colts fans will see the difference firsthand when "The Sheriff" rides into town this Sunday and continues playing quarterback the same way he has all season: Better than anyone ever has.

    Twenty-two touchdown passes, two interceptions and a 6-0 record? Manning isn’t just good right now, he’s historic. If he keeps up this pace long enough to win himself another Lombardi trophy, at the age of 37, what moment out of all his time in Indianapolis would even hold candle to it?

    Better yet, how many moments in the history of the league could top a season like that? 

2. Peyton Manning Calling an Audible

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    If the memories don’t come flooding back for Colts fans the second Manning arrives at Lucas Oil Stadium this Sunday, they definitely will the first time he lines up, scans Chuck Pagano’s revamped defense and effortlessly proceeds to exploit the glaring weakness in it that only he could find like some invisible helper of his just drew a giant “X” on the field and said, “Hey, pass it here!”

    “Red 80!” “Omaha!” “Louisville, Louisville!”

    What’s worse is that simply watching Manning make fools of their defense isn’t going to be the weirdest part of this experience for Colts fans, it’s that they’ll be screaming their heads off while he’s doing it, trying to make those signals as difficult as possible to communicate.

    Remember what used to happen when Manning was at the line of scrimmage back when Lucas Oil was Peyton’s Place? Total silence, that’s what happened. 60,000 amped up football fans would just sit there motionless while the maestro delivered them a masterpiece and if it weren’t for the steady stream of audibles constantly spewing from Manning’s mouth like a delusional homeless person at the time, viewers at home would probably think they’d hit the mute button by accident. It was a beautiful sight to see and an almost religious one to hear.

    Not this time. In this game, for the first time in Manning’s career, the only quarterback getting the silent treatment in Indianapolis will be playing for the other team.

    Unless, of course, Colts fans get confused, in which case we might not hear a peep out of anyone all game.

    Told you things were going to get weird.

1. Peyton Manning Is Introduced

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    Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

    The most surreal moment in Sunday’s contest will take place before the game itself, when the Colts honor Peyton Manning with a planned tribute then introduce him to his former crowd as a member of another team.

    Besides the shock of hearing him announced as a Bronco, the impact from that introduction is two-fold: It’ll be the first time Manning is announced to the fans in Indianapolis as an active player since the Colts lost to the New York Jets in the 2010 playoffs, and depending on how the next couple of seasons play out, there is the possibility it could also be the last.

    Granted, with Manning signed until 2016 and both franchises looking like they’ll be intra-conference rivals through much of that span, there’s a good chance these teams cross paths in Indianapolis again one day, but nothing is a given in football, and it’s not very difficult to imagine a scenario where Manning never returns to Lucas Oil Stadium, at least not as a player.

    How’s a fan supposed to even process all the complex emotions at play in such a moment, let alone to try and communicate them in a window of say, 20-30 seconds?

    “Peyton! Hey, great to see you! Welcome back and thanks for everything. We’ll always love you, and if this is the last time we ever see you, you’re the man and good luck out there and ahhhhhhhhhhh!!!”

    It’s enough to overwhelm even the most casual Colts fan, and it’s a feeling made only that much more complicated considering the people expressing it will do so just minutes before Manning plays in a Sunday Night Football game they overwhelmingly want him to lose.

    That one absurd moment pretty much sums up this entire game for Colts fans, who’ll finally have to draw a line in the turf over where their allegiance lies, even if they don’t want to and even if it is for just this one midseason game.  

    History or no history, it won’t take long for Manning to find out which side of that line he’s now on.

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