Broncos-Colts matchup of the day

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- As much as everybody likes to say quarterbacks are facing each other, squaring off or going head-to-head, they have enough to do on your average, run-of-the-mill Sunday without really worrying about what the other guy across the field is up to.

But Sunday’s prime-time affair between the Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts will be decided in large part by which quarterback handles the swirl that has accompanied the game the best.

There is a theory Colts owner Jim Irsay launched the "Peyton Manning’s tenure wasn’t as great as we’d hoped" offerings as Sunday's game approached to try to crank up the pressure and affect Manning’s performance.

There is enough there that even former Colts coach Tony Dungy offered it up as a reason for Irsay doing something so ill-advised and, on many levels, ungrateful. Given a chance to shoot that theory down later in the week, Colts coach Chuck Pagano -- a Boulder, Colo., native -- didn’t dispel it, saying only “time will tell."

So, Manning, who is the ultimate thinking quarterback, may have to allow himself the freedom to let it fly in the game, take some chances, perhaps even put the offense in the hands of the running backs for a time to simply settle in. It will be an emotionally charged game for him at a place where he once firmly believed he would finish out his career.

As far the Colts’ Andrew Luck, there will be a lure, the same lure every ultra-competitive person feels at some point, to prove that Irsay made the correct decision. That the Colts are in good hands -- something most everyone in the league already believes, anyway -- as they move ahead in the post-Manning era.

It could be enough to embolden both defenses, especially the Broncos with linebacker Von Miller in the lineup for the first time after his six-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. But with emotions running high, the setting is right for both defenses to take some risks to force the issue early in the game.

And that’s something Manning hasn’t seen a lot of this season as the Broncos’ first six opponents have played three- or four-man rushes 70 percent of the time. Either way, the franchise quarterback who manages it all the best will likely be the one who walks away with the win.