Peyton Manning hasn’t played since Week 10, but he could soon be returning to in-game action. The Denver Broncos quarterback participated in practice on Wednesday for the first time in over a month, taking the first step towards playing again this season.
Manning won’t play on Sunday, and Brock Osweiler will get his fifth consecutive start. Osweiler took over for Manning in Denver’s 29-13 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs after the veteran tore the plantar fascia near his left heel.
"That's the next step: that [Manning] is coming back for practice," Kubiak said at his press conference on Monday. "If you're coming back to practice, then you're working toward getting back on the field and playing."
Peyton Manning working out with the second unit. Didn't look like the foot was bothering, but this was warm-ups pic.twitter.com/DJeGDQmrkl
— Raul Martinez (@RaulSports) December 16, 2015
Once Manning is completely healthy, he’s expected to replace Osweiler, though it’s no guarantee. Denver is 10-3 with a two-game lead in the AFC West, and they are gunning for a first-round bye in the postseason. Osweiler has performed better than Manning this season, and he might give the Broncos a better chance to win the Super Bowl.
Before Manning got hurt, he was having the worst season of his career. He was picked off four times before leaving Denver’s Week 10 game with an injury, giving him 17 interceptions on the year. Even after missing four games, Manning still leads the NFL in interceptions, and his 67.6 passer rating ranks last in the league.
Osweiler has an 85.4 passer rating this season with five touchdowns and three interceptions. He’s 3-1 as the team’s starter, largely avoiding the costly mistakes Manning made in the first 10 weeks.
But Manning has played in 24 postseason games to Osweiler’s zero, and the backup’s numbers might not be good enough for head coach Gary Kubiak to give him the nod over the future Hall of Famer. Denver has scored 17 points or fewer in three of Osweiler’s starts, and the quarterback has reached the 300-yard mark just once. Osweiler failed to throw a touchdown last week when the Broncos lost at home to the Oakland Raiders.
Denver visits the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, and they close out the regular season with games against the Cincinnati Bengals and San Diego Chargers.