INDIANAPOLIS — Peyton Manning isn’t sure what to expect when he returns to Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday night for the first time as a member of the Denver Broncos.
He’ll dress in an unfamiliar locker room and line up against an Indianapolis Colts team with familiar uniforms but very few familiar faces. He isn’t sure how his emotions will affect him before, after or during the game.
And he’s not even certain how he’s supposed to react.
It’s an uncommon position for a quarterback who is always in control.
“Somebody asked me earlier, is it the same as playing against (brother) Eli?” Manning said during a conference call this week at the Colts’ training facility. “And I said, ‘I guarantee Robert Mathis hits a heck of a lot harder than Eli does.’ From that standpoint, it’s definitely different.”
Still, it’s a safe bet Manning will quickly find his footing.
He’s off to the best start of his 16-year NFL career and, in fact, the best start ever for any quarterback in the league. Manning is completing 74.2 percent of his passes for 2,179 yards with 22 touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 128.8, and he’s on pace to set single-season records in each category.
In a career filled with masterpieces, this season might be Manning’s Mona Lisa.
“They’re going to make plays,” Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said. “He’s going to make plays. They’re going to move the ball. They’ve moved it on everybody. We know that. We’ll come up with the best possible plan that gives our guys the best possible chance to do well and win the football game.”
In all the hoopla surrounding this prime time telecast — from the debate over whether Indianapolis made the right decision to release Manning two years ago to the Twitter furor over Colts owner Jim Irsay’s comments earlier this week — it’s easy to lose sight of the fact a football game will be played Sunday night.