The Indianapolis Colts (12-5) will head to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado to challenge the Denver Broncos (12-4) at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Jan. 11.
The game is bound to focus on Peyton Manning, who used to play for the Colts but now puts on a Broncos uniform. According to the Associated Press, the well-rested Broncos will take on Andrew Luck and the Colts, this time with much higher stakes, in this AFC divisional matchup.
"It was my hope and dream that this sort of situation would occur. I feel blessed that it has," Colts owner Jim Irsay said in regards of meeting Manning again on the gridiron. "I think it's going to be a great game and having these two great quarterbacks go against each other at this point in their careers is really exciting."
The Associated Press reported that Manning spent 14 years of his NFL career at the Colts before he was cut in the 2011 season after undergoing multiple surgical procedures on his neck. When he did return to the Broncos, they lost 39-33 last season to the Colts before winning at home against them 31-24 on Sept. 7.
"We had them the first game of the season and he was fine," Broncos Pro Bowl wideout Demaryius Thomas said of Manning. "It's a playoff game so it's a little bit different because if you lose, you're done and if you win, you keep going. I can't really talk for Peyton, but I think he's fine."
According to Lindsay H. Jones of USA Today Sports, Sunday's game would be considered a legacy chapter for the quarterbacks on both teams. However, their storylines have been linked together quite a lot.
"For Luck, this is his chance to lead the Colts to their first AFC title game of the post-Manning era," Jones wrote. "A loss would be a sign that, despite the ascendance of the top pick of the 2012 draft as the league's best young quarterback, the Colts aren't ready to compete with the AFC's elite teams."
The Associated Press reported that Luck attempted to downplay comparisons between Manning and him, who are both facing pressure from their respective teams to perform at their best.
"It's not the quarterback versus quarterback thing. We're not on the field at the same time," Luck said. "I have a lot of respect for (Manning), 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."
Broncos cornerback Chris Harris told USA Today that whatever the results, the fallout will be felt most by the quarterback, adding that for Manning, "the pressure is back on him now."
"It doesn't matter if we play terrible defense, or if the other team plays terrible on defense," Harris said. "I mean, it's always going to go on the quarterback. At the end of the day, it's going to be on Peyton Manning."
Colts coach Chuck Pagano indicated to the Associated Press that he saw Sunday's game against the Broncos as a "great chess match."
"They're a great football team and obviously they've got a great, great quarterback," Pagano said about Manning and the Broncos. "It's always a huge challenge and at the same time, we're going to embrace the opportunity, embrace the moment. It's exciting, it's fun. It's always a great chess match."