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Peyton Manning vs. Andrew Luck is an intriguing story line

Denver QB Peyton Manning and Indianapolis QB Andrew

Denver QB Peyton Manning and Indianapolis QB Andrew Luck meet on the field after a game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 7, 2014 in Denver. Credit: Getty Images

Peyton Manning understands why the comparisons are made. He's just not interested in talking about them.

The Broncos' iconic quarterback faces his successor with the Colts, Andrew Luck, in Sunday's AFC divisional playoff game at Mile High Stadium, but the 37-year-old Manning won't play along when you ask him about the quarterback matchup.

Nothing to see here, folks.

"I've never thought much about the comparisons and how it affects me," Manning said. "And I'm sure he hasn't either. I guess if you're the first pick in the draft, and you're always going to be compared to other first picks, and if you play for a team, there's going to be comparisons to other quarterbacks who have played."

Sorry, Peyton. This one's different.

Their relationship traces back to the 2011 season, when Manning, who had played every game for the Colts since being picked first overall in 1998, missed the entire season because of four surgical procedures on his neck. The Colts were 2-14, again earned the first overall pick and happened to be in place to take Luck, another quarterback for the ages.

Manning was released in the offseason because of salary-cap concerns and wound up with Denver. He turned the Broncos into instant Super Bowl contenders and Luck came to Indianapolis to quickly return the Colts to AFC South dominance.

And now we have a playoff matchup between two quarterbacks -- two sons of former quarterbacks -- who battle for the right to move one game from the Super Bowl.


Even if Manning wants no part of the game's biggest story line.

"This is 2015, we're playing Indianapolis in this divisional round and that's kind of where our focus is," Manning said. "We're focused on trying to do our job versus a good team -- a team that's playing hot, a team that's playing with a lot of momentum, won six out of the last seven, coming off a win against a good Cincinnati team. Anything that's happened in years past -- six, seven, eight years ago -- I'm not sure the impact that it's had on this particular team."

This is the third meeting between the two quarterbacks, with both winning once. Luck got the best of Manning in Indianapolis last season and Manning returned the favor in the 2014 regular-season opener.

Like Manning, Luck is reluctant to make this about anything other than Colts-Broncos.

"It's not the quarterback-versus-quarterback thing," Luck said. "We're not on the field at the same time. I have a lot of respect for him, what he does. What he still does is amazing. He's a stud. I'll worry about the Denver defense. That's what I'll worry about."

There's a lot to worry about. During the offseason, the Broncos went on a free-agent spending binge on defensive players in hopes of balancing out the team and not having to rely exclusively on Manning's offense.

Pass rusher DeMarcus Ware, safety T.J. Ward and cornerback Aqib Talib were the marquee additions, and they helped Denver to its third straight AFC West title on Manning's watch.

But the big test comes now as the Broncos attempt to get to the Super Bowl for the second straight year. How they deal with Luck, who threw a career-high 40 touchdown passes during the regular season, will tell a lot about whether John Elway's makeover on defense paid dividends.

Indy's defense will be as important to the Colts' chances as Luck's performance. The Colts somehow have managed to patch together an 11-5 season without their best pass rusher, Robert Mathis, who was suspended the first four games of the regular season because of a positive test for performance- enhancing drugs and then suffered a torn Achilles.

The Colts will have their hands full with Manning, who finished the regular season with 39 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions -- excellent numbers by any measure but not up to Manning's standards from the previous year, when he had 55 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions.

Manning struggled in the final month, throwing three touchdown passes and six interceptions. But he was battling a thigh bruise and perhaps a little late-season fatigue, and he feels fine after a bye week to heal up.

All set to go for Manning vs. Luck, Part III. Doesn't get much better than this. Even if the two quarterbacks would rather talk about something other than themselves.

New York Sports