As Peyton Manning enters the divisional round against the Steelers, he’s healthier than he has been all year — including Week One of the regular season.
It means that, as Manning prepares to start for the first time since November 15, he has the same status he ever has had when starting a game for the Broncos. Manning is the starter — and barring injury he’s the finisher.
But it’s impossible (as noted last night) to rule out coach Gary Kubiak making a switch. Overlooked in the coach of the year conversation, Kubiak masterfully navigated the quarterback conundrum this year in Denver to the No. 1 seed in the AFC. To get there, he knew exactly when to yank Brock Osweiler and to replace him with Manning in Week 17.
That day, Kubiak entered the game with no plan to make a change at quarterback. But he decided that the team needed a spark, he made the switch, and the Broncos avoided sliding to the No. 5 seed.
On Sunday, if Kubiak fears that the Broncos could slide out of the postseason, it’s possible that he’ll make an unplanned, seat-of-the-pants decision to change quarterbacks. Much of that depends on whether Manning plays like he did in past years with the Broncos, or like he did when he was routinely struggling earlier this season.