The setback that Peyton Manning experienced last Friday must have been more acute than the team let on, because he did not return to practice Wednesday. Gary Kubiak wasted little time naming Brock Osweiler the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos big Week 16 home game vs. the Cincinnati Bengals. Manning will be inactive.
Osweiler is facing his own battles with the injury bug this week. He injured his shoulder in the second quarter of the Broncos 34-27 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers and we found out Wednesday that he also as an infection in his left eye. He will see a doctor about it Wednesday afternoon.
“It's unreal, that's what it is," Osweiler said Wednesday. "It came on yesterday. I have no idea what's going on with my eye. I'm going to go see the doctor this afternoon and hopefully we can get it fixed up.”
Another week with Manning on the sidelines begs the question — why don't the Broncos just place him on injured reserve? After more than a month off, if two days of practice bars him from practicing five days later, it doesn't bode well for his prognosis to return to action. And yet, the team remains hopeful.
Our very own Doc Bear, a medical professional, reported last week that it would be a miracle if Manning returns for any meaningful football before the Super Bowl. A plantar fascia tear is a fickle injury and can nag the aflicted for months. Manning is almost 40 years old and at that age, the body doesn't heal as quickly as it once did.
Factoring in Manning's reliance on his feet as a foundation to throw and operate as a quarterback on the grid-iron and the situation becomes even more grim. For now, the Broncos can't worry about Manning's prognosis. They have bigger fish to fry. Back-to-back losses have put their playoff hopes in doubt.
The only way to absolutely guarantee a postseason berth is to win out these next two weeks. Beat the Bengals and the San Diego Chargers at home and the Broncos win the AFC West and the AFC's No. 2 playoff seed, which would come with a first round bye. The Broncos can get some help if the Kansas City Chiefs, NY Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers lose this week.
But the bottom line is the Broncos control their own destiny. They must approach each and every game from here on out as a playoff bout. Winning the next two would ensure that bye, and the team could sorely use it, with nagging injuries to T.J. Ward, Darian Stewart, Omar Bolden, Evan Mathis, DeMarcus Ware and even Peyton Manning hurting them on gameday.
Brock Osweiler is weathering the learning curve of a first-time starter. He's 3-2. If he could just figure out how to duplicate his first half success in the second and learn how to close out games in the fourth quarter, the Broncos will be very hard to beat. Unfortunately, the Broncos haven't score a second half point since November 29th vs. the New England Patriots.
Something's gotta give.
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Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.