It was pretty much a no-brainer that Peyton Manning would find himself in a nationally televised game when he eventually made it back from multiple neck surgeries.
Despite not playing in a real game since Jan. 8, 2011, Manning is still one of the NFL’s most recognizable faces, and he jump starts his career in Denver with an intriguing matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
What follows is a breakdown of the game, with news, notes, quotes and anecdotes to help you make your bets.
Keep in mind: The “edge” is merely a suggestion, and not something we necessarily recommend playing.
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STEELERS AT BRONCOS, 8:30 P.M. ET
OPENING POINT SPREAD: Denver -2 | CURRENT: Denver -1.5 | OVER/UNDER: 45.5 | TV: NBC
SUMMARY: Is the old “never bet against Peyton Manning in a nationally televised game” mantra still true? Will he be the same? Can he possibly step right back in after more than 20 months off and take down one of the best defenses in the league? Roughly two-thirds of the public thinks so.
STORYLINES: The Steelers were once again the league’s best defense in 2011, surrendering only 272 yards per game. But safety Ryan Clark is out because of a sickle cell trait that is magnified at high altitudes, and linebackers Larry Foote, Jason Worilds and James Harrison are all dinged up and either probable or questionable.
The Broncos, on the other hand, are almost perfectly healthy but will be without linebacker D.J. Williams, the team’s leading tackler in four of the past five seasons. Williams is serving a six-game drug suspension.
Pittsburgh was a 7.5-point road favorite in a 29-23 playoff loss at Denver last year, meaning that, yes, Manning could be considered a 9- or 10-point improvement over Tim Tebow at quarterback.
In 10 years as an NFL head coach, John Fox has never really had the luxury of working with an elite quarterback, but he’s still managed to earn three division titles and four playoff appearances with both the Panthers and Broncos.
“We’re happy as heck that [Manning]‘s with us,” Fox told the Denver Post.
EDGE: Too many injuries—both on defense and at running back—to give us any certainty backing the Steelers. This will be a very close game, but Manning should come through again in prime time.