The Broncos face the Colts in the NFL's Divisional playoff round this weekend. That means the pride of Denver — Peyton Manning — will square off against the quarterback who sent him west: Andrew Luck.
The Indianapolis Star’s Gregg Doyel joined Bill Littlefield from Denver to discuss the game.
BL: Peyton Manning led the Colts to a Super Bowl win in 2007, and he’s a five-time MVP. He was, of course, much beloved in Indianapolis when the Colts let him walk after the 2011 season. Is that still the case?
Downtown Indy is thriving, and I think Peyton Manning had a big, big factor in that.Gregg Doyel, Indianapolis Star
BL: Since Indianapolis let Manning go in order to draft Luck, neither team has struggled. Manning and Denver reached the Super Bowl last year. The Colts have been 11-5 in each of Luck’s three seasons. So, this matchup can’t be personal for either quarterback, right?
GD: No, I don't think it is. They like each other very much, as well they should. They're both nice guys. But it's kinda interesting, it's ironic that Andrew Luck went to the Peyton Manning passing camp when he was in high school. The Mannings remembered him and liked him and all that. So these guys generally like each other. There's no rivalry. They understand it's not a matter of "Who's better? Who won the trade?" They're both thrilled to be where they are and they both get it.
BL: A few weeks ago, we spoke to Kevin Clark of the Wall Street Journal. He had written a column about Andrew Luck and his tendency to compliment players who’ve sacked him while they’re still on the field. You know, "Nice hit." Is Luck as quick to praise Peyton Manning?
[sidebar title="The Friendliest 'Trash' Talker" width="630" align="right"] Andrew Luck is “probably too nice for the NFL,” the Wall Street Journal’s Kevin Clark tells Bill Littlefield following his investigation into the Colts quarterback.[/sidebar]GD: Oh yeah, we asked Luck about Peyton and the Broncos after the Colts beat the Bengals last week, and Peyton — called him a stud. Said, "It's not about me versus him or any of that stuff. But he's a stud. He's a great player, one of the greatest of all time." Luck is very, very flowering in his praise of Peyton Manning. How could you not be? But Luck's the real deal. He's that nice a guy. He really is.
BL: In your column published Thursday, you argued that something is wrong with Peyton Manning. You point to the final seven games of the regular season in which his yards per game are down by more than 60 compared to the start of year. Touchdown passes down substantially as well. So what do you think the problem is?
GD: Well, it's pretty apparent his efficiency is way down. Passer rating is down from 112 to 85 — that's MVP level to Mark Sanchez level. It's a huge drop in efficiency, and seven games is a pretty good sample size. What's happening is, he's 38 years old. And when you get old, the season wears on you. Your arm gets tireder. He's throwing ducks, frankly Bill. We're all in the press box, "quack, quack." We're quacking when he throws the ball. The ball's wobbling.
[sidebar title="Tips For NFL Hiring" width="630" align="right"]Bleacher Report's Mike Tanier composed an interview guide for NFL owners searching for a new head coach.[/sidebar]Now the brilliance of Peyton Manning is geometry. He can throw a duck, slow, and if he puts it in a certain spot, no one else can catch it but his receiver, so he's still effective. But the arm strength is not there, plus one of his legs is hurting. He's banged up. He's good enough to win, but he's not the Peyton Manning we're used to seeing.
BL: Andrew Luck has helped Indy reach the playoffs in each of his three seasons but has not been to a conference championship yet. Still, you wrote earlier this week that the Colts are a winner this year, even if they lose to Denver on Sunday. How's that?
GD: They're not all that good. They're just not. We can all be disappointed if you're an Indianapolis Colts fan. They've milked what they could milk out of this season. I think it's reasonable to expect them to lose on the road, at Denver, and the season's a success based on what they had. Now going forward, the GM's got to do a better job of giving them more next year.
BL: It sounds to me as if you're suggesting that it's Denver that will advance to the AFC Championship game.
GD: Yeah, we've got a 17-game track record with the Colts. They beat bad teams. They beat mediocre teams. They had a decent chance of beating a good team at home. And when they go on the road against anybody with talent at all they lose. And they lose actually kinda bad.
Now the first Broncos' game they only lost by seven, but they were down 24-0. They got blown out on the road by Pittsburgh, blown out on the road by the Dallas Cowboys. I'm not sure they're going to get blown out by Denver, but based on what they've done, who they are — who they are is a team that loses to Denver this week, yes.
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This segment aired on January 10, 2015.