After nearly two years away from the NFL, four-time Most Valuable Player Peyton Manning returns as the Denver Broncos take on the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium.
The contest begins at 8:20pm eastern time and will be broadcast by NBC or watch their online streaming feed here.
The quarterback's last game was with the Indianapolis Colts, when they lost to the New York Jets 17-16 in the 2010 AFC Wild Card Playoff. Manning missed the entire 2011 season, and snapped his 227-consecutive games started record. The 11-time Pro Bowler had played his entire career with Indianapolis, but suffered complications from several neck surgeries and the Colts eventually released him. Denver swooped in as a surprise team, and signed Manning in the spring.
The Broncos fielded the NFL's top rushing offense last season, thanks in part to now-New York Jet Tim Tebow, but will have a completely different scheme with Manning under center.
Last year's top receivers, Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas, should boost their production, and tight end Jacob Tamme, who played with Manning in Indianapolis, should also have a big year.
The Steelers bring back most of a team that looks to avenge their 29-23 overtime playoff loss last season to the Broncos.
Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, a two-time Super Bowl champion, is scheduled to start, and will have his top receivers in Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace, who returned on Aug. 28 after a contract holdout.
Running back Isaac Redman will get the start against Denver, replacing the injured Rashard Mendenhall, who is listed as doubtful. Redman tallied 121 yards on 17 carries in Pittsburgh's loss to Denver in the postseason.
The typically tenacious Pittsburgh defense will miss safety Ryan Clark, who carries the sickle cell trait. Clark missed the Steelers' playoff game last year for the same reason, as it can be seriously debilitating in high-altitude areas like Denver.
Veteran linebacker James Harrison is listed as questionable for Sunday, and so is second-year running back Baron Batch.
Betting Odds: Denver is favored by 2 points.
Prediction: Clark's absence proved to be a huge factor during the playoffs last season, and if Harrison is also out Pittsburgh will apply less pressure to Manning, who can devastate a defense if given ample time in the pocket. The Steelers are typically very resilient and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is famous for his preparation, even with key players sitting out.
Predicted Score: Denver 20, Pittsburgh 14
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