Andrew Luck gives Colts upper hand over Peyton Manning, Broncos

Andrew Luck gives Colts upper hand over Peyton Manning, Broncos
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, left, and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning will meet for the third time in Sunday's AFC divisional playoff matchup. (Michael Conroy; Joe Mahoney / Associated Press)

Once more, with feeling.

For the third time, it's Peyton Manning versus Andrew Luck, and Sunday the stakes are higher than they've ever been, with the winner moving on and the loser done for the season.


Last season, in Manning's first return to Indianapolis, his Broncos lost, 39-33. But Denver beat the visiting Colts, 31-24, in the first Sunday night game this season.

Of course, it's really Indianapolis at Denver more than anything else.

"It's not the quarterback versus quarterback thing," said Luck, who directed the Colts to victory over Cincinnati in the first round to set up this divisional matchup. "We're not on the field at the same time. I have a lot of respect for [Manning], what he does, what he still does is amazing. He's a stud. I'll worry about the Denver defense, that's what I worry about."

Then again, a lot of people in Denver are quietly worried about Manning, 38, whose torrid early pace this season has slowed considerably. In his last four games, he posted a passer rating of 76.8 with three touchdowns and six interceptions.

Since the Broncos locked up the AFC's No. 2 seeding, they had an extra week of rest. Manning did not participate in team workouts the first week, and returned to practice this week.

"It [rest] was much needed," safety Rahim Moore said. "I needed it, our team needed it, especially guys like Peyton, who's been playing since I came out of the womb. ... He's an older guy. He needs it. You can't run a Ferrari or no, a Bugatti, too much. He's our Bugatti. That's how Peyton is to our team, so you've got to get him some rest."

On the run

The Colts gave up an average of 126.2 yards rushing in their last five games. They'll need to patch those holes against the Broncos, who have become increasingly reliant on running back C.J. Anderson. In the last six games, Anderson led the league with 648 yards rushing and eight touchdowns.

"The biggest thing is stopping the run before you can get to [Manning]," defensive end Cory Redding told the team's official website. "We have to focus on that. … Then, when it's time to focus on 18, our coaches will draw up a good game plan, and we will attack it the best way possible."

History calling

Luck threw for 376 yards in the Colts' 26-10 victory over the Bengals last weekend, his third consecutive postseason game with more than 300 yards passing. That's tied for the second-longest such streak in NFL history, matching Drew Brees, Jim Kelly and Warren Moon.

Should Luck have another game of 300 yards or more, he would tie the record held by Dan Fouts.

By the numbers



Points scored: 28.6 (6) | 30.1 (2)

Points given up: 23.1 (19) | 22.1 (16)

Pass offense: 305.9 (1) | 225.4 (24)

Rush offense: 100.8 (22) | 79.8 (31)

Pass defense: 229.3 (12) | 225.4 (9)

Rush defense: 113.4 (18) | 79.8 (2)

Sacks: 41 (9) | 41 (9)

Penalty yards: 54.1 (15) | 51 (9)

Turnovers: -5 (22) | +5 (11)

Farmer's pick

Luck continues to amaze, playing huge in the biggest games. Indianapolis is hot right now, and the Colts believe. Historically, that has taken teams a long way in the postseason. The week off could have done wonders for Manning, but he hasn't looked like the same player in recent weeks. The Broncos have been running well with Anderson, but the Colts did a good job of playing the run last week against the Bengals.