DENVER (AP) – Peyton Manning will have to wait until next season to face the Indianapolis Colts.
His old team lost 24-9 at Baltimore in the AFC wild-card game Sunday. So the Ravens (11-6) will visit Denver next weekend to face the Broncos (13-3), the AFC’s top seed.
Had the Colts won, there would have been a circus-like atmosphere all week in Denver in anticipation of the reunion between the Broncos quarterback and the team he played with for 14 seasons before their split last spring.
Instead, the Broncos get a chance to send Ray Lewis into retirement Saturday.
Manning will face the Colts sometime next season in Indianapolis – the exact date won’t be known until the 2013 schedule comes out.
The Broncos are coming off a bye and riding an 11-game winning streak that includes a 34-17 win at Baltimore in Week 15.
PHOTO GALLERY: Week 15: Broncos 34, Ravens 17
“It matters in the fact that you have film from having played them and you know them a little better than you know Indy,” Broncos tight end Jacob Tamme said. “But we would know Indy just as well as any other team we play in the playoffs. So, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter.”
“It means nothing that we beat them in the regular season. I know we beat them pretty good, but in the playoffs it’s just a different game,” wide receiver Brandon Stokley said.
Like Tamme, Stokley is a former teammate of Manning’s in Indy, and he said the four-time MVP and the rest of the Broncos know better than to let their guard down now.
“That was the same scenario against Pittsburgh when Peyton and I were in Indy. We whipped them pretty good and we played them a couple of weeks later after a bye and they beat us in the playoffs, you know?” Stokley said. “So it doesn’t matter what you did in the regular season.”
Asked last week if he’d watch the Colts game with anything more than a technical interest, Manning said: “I’ve always watched the playoff games. It’s certainly one of the three teams that we could play. It’s an exciting time for football.”
The Broncos worked all of last week as they prepared for the possibility of facing the Colts, Bengals and Ravens, and they had a team lift on Saturday. They return to work Monday.
Notes: The AFC’s final four – Denver, Baltimore, New England and Houston – is the same as last year. … Since John Elway retired, the Broncos are 2-1 in home playoff games with wins over New England in `05 and Pittsburgh last year. They also lost the AFC title game to the Steelers in January 2006. … Manning is 6-4 at home in the playoffs. By comparison, Elway was 9-2. … Of this year’s 12 playoff teams, seven used iPad playbooks: the Broncos, Bengals, Colts and Ravens in the AFC and the Packers, Redskins and Seahawks in the NFC. In all, 14 of the 32 teams used the tablets this year. A bunch more teams are expected to ditch the old three-ring binders next year when the league makes game film available in high definition.
– By Arnie Stapleton, AP Sports Writer
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