ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Both quarterbacks are downplaying Luck vs. Manning III as Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning seek to knock each other out of the playoffs.
They’re 1-1 against each other heading into Sunday’s tiebreaker that will determine which one gets to play for the AFC championship and which one gets to start thinking about Luck vs. Manning IV next season in Indy.
Manning lost his homecoming in 2013 when his emotions and the Colts both got the best of him in Denver’s 39-33 defeat that wasn’t really that close.
He bested his successor in this season’s opener with a trio of TD tosses to Julius Thomas in a 31-24 win that wasn’t really that close.
If not for “Tebowmania,” this game might very well have pitted Luck and the Broncos against Manning and the Colts.
After a poor start in 2011, the Broncos promoted backup Tim Tebow, and many beleaguered Broncos fans, dreaming of a franchise-changing quarterback, adopted the popular slogan “Suck for Luck.”
The Broncos fell out of the running when Tebow started winning games, guiding Denver to the AFC West title and the playoffs while the Colts wrapped up a 2-14 season with Manning sidelined after neck surgery.
The Colts drafted Luck and Manning went to Denver to restart his career. Tebow went to New York for a forgettable season with the Jets and is now a college football analyst for the SEC Network.
Since coming to Denver, Manning is 40-12, including 2-2 in the playoffs. Luck is 35-17 and also 2-2 in the playoffs, including a 26-10 win over Cincinnati in the wild-card round last week.
Afterward, Luck was asked about facing his predecessor in the playoffs.
“I think we face the Broncos in a sense. It’s not the quarterback versus quarterback thing,” he said. “We’re not on the field at the same time. I have a lot of respect for him, 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.”
That’s pretty much how Manning sees it, too. As he’s fond of reminding people, he doesn’t really like “going down memory lane.”
He was asked on Wednesday about facing his old team and shrugged it off, noting, “I’ve been here for three years and this is the third time we’ve played them.”
As for the parallels between the passers, “I’ve never thought much about comparisons, how it affects me,” Manning said, “and I’m sure he doesn’t either.”
However, both quarterbacks realize they’ll be linked forever.
“I guess if you’re the first pick of the draft, you’re always going to be compared to other first picks. When you play for a team, there are going to be comparisons to other quarterbacks that have played,” Manning said.
Luck said talking about Manning beats being asked about his beard all the time.
“It’s part of the job I guess,” Luck said. “I mean honestly, people don’t ask me too much about it. It’s you guys on the media days, and I would, too. As fans, we love story lines. It seems to be the nature, the sport culture today, so be it.”
Luck led the league with 40 TD passes, one more than Manning, who threw just three TD passes last month.
“A year ago, he broke probably every single-season record known to man,” Broncos coach John Fox said. “It was the style we played and what was best for our team at that point. This year, I think we’re a little bit different team. We’re built different. He was a 12-4 quarterback during the regular season which is I think tied for the best record in football this year.”
Notes: With S David Bruton and G Orlando Franklin returning from concussions, the Broncos had 100 percent participation at practice Wednesday for the first time since Oct. 3. LB Brandon Marshall (foot, limited) was the only player who wasn’t a full participant.
By Arnie Stapleton, AP Pro Football Writer
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