The 10-3 Broncos are still on track for a playoff berth, two games
clear of the surging Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West, but can ill
afford another loss as they vie for a first-round bye with New
England (11-2) and Cincinnati (10-3).
Back-up quarterback Brock Osweiler has so far proved an adequate
replacement for Manning, going 3-1 in four starts, but the Broncos
have not exactly been sizzling on offense, scoring an average of 19
and coming off a 15-12 loss to Oakland (6-7).
They are understandably keen to get all-time NFL touchdown leader
Manning back before the playoffs, provided he is fit.
Head coach Gary Kubiak indicated that 39-year-old Manning, who has a
torn plantar fascia in his left foot, had been pulled from practice
more as a precaution, after working out with the team the previous
"He came in this morning and was a little sore, so we just said,
'OK, we'll stop for the weekend and we'll go from there,' so we'll
pick back up on Monday," Kubiak said.
Manning has played through injury for much of the season, exhibiting
a loss of arm strength that has had some observers wondering how
much the five-time league MVP has left to give.
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Only the top two teams in each conference earn a bye, and the
Broncos enter the critical stretch facing the Steelers (8-5) and
then the Bengals, before wrapping up the regular season against the
struggling San Diego Padres (3-10).
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Larry
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