I think it's safe to say Peyton Manning made the right decision. He passed on the Titans and others vying for his services after the Colts cut their veteran franchise quarterback.
After he missed the 2011 season, Manning was cleared to return to the NFL. He signed a five-year, $96 million contract with the Broncos. Once he visited Denver and Broncos Hall of Fame quarterback turned front office executive John Elway, the former Tennessee star found a home in the Mile High mountains. Elway was the wild card that swung Manning.
Having recovered from four neck fusion operations that left Manning with a weakened throwing arm, the Broncos have seen their gamble pay off. He is a favorite to win his fifth NFL Most Valuable Player honor.
They will meet the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. Denver carries a 14-3 record into the game. The Patriots come in 13-4.
It sets up the 15th time Manning has gone against Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. They are widely recognized as the two best quarterbacks in the game today and both are locks for first ballot Pro Football Hall of Fame crowns.
While they are familiar with these puffed up head-on games, this one is to punch a ticket to Super Bowl XLVIII, this year to be played in Eli Manning's playground.
But first Peyton Manning and the Broncos had to dispose of the San Diego Chargers Sunday.
A year ago, Denver was quickly booted from the playoffs by Baltimore. It dropped Manning's postseason record to 9-11.
Sunday, Manning helped put the Chargers in a 17-0 hole through three quarters. The four-time NFL MVP threw two touchdowns in the first half and the Broncos held off a 17-point fourth quarter rally by the Chargers to take a 24-17 win.
Manning was, well, Manning. He was 25 for 36 for 230 yards and one interception. The 37-year-old quarterback arguably had the best season of his career. He set NFL single season records for passing yards (5,477) and touchdown passes (55).
The Manning against Brady duel makes for great headlines, but it is not a punt, pass and kick contest between the two.
“Tom Brady has been an outstanding quarterback for such a long time, but the game next week is the Broncos versus the Patriots,'' Manning said after the Chargers game.
Typical Manning. He never says anything unless he has filtered it through his mind. If you're looking for locker room material, you've gone to the wrong person. Between now and the AFC Championship Game kickoff, Manning will have Tom Brady crowned as the best quarterback to ever play the game.
“I know there is going to be some matchups that get headlines, but it will be a battle between good teams. Teams that have been through a lot,'' Manning said.
Manning's future is cloudy. He admits he can see the end of the tunnel in his career. In March he will have a physical examination per his contract to see if his neck surgery is still intact or has weakened other parts of his body.
But take first things first. The Broncos were last in the AFC Championship Game in 2005. The quarterback was Jake “The Snake'' Plummer. Sunday he flipped the coin before the game.
The Broncos won the toss. Perhaps an omen?
Contact wkrn.com Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at firstname.lastname@example.org.