INDIANAPOLIS — The wait is nearly over.
Some six months after the NFL schedule was released and the nation learned the date the Denver Broncos would visit the Indianapolis Colts, Peyton Manning will make his homecoming tonight at Lucas Oil Stadium.
A circus atmosphere developed in the lead-up to this contest with comments made to a USA Today reporter by Colts owner Jim Irsay blowing up into a national controversy. And the emotional aspect of Manning's return is certain to be a major part of NBC's broadcast.
But head coach Chuck Pagano said he's focused on the same areas with his team as any other week.
"The obvious is the obvious," Pagano said, referring to the Manning angle. "It is what it is. We've got things to clean up. So we're going back to work."
Indianapolis (4-2) is coming off a disappointing 19-9 loss at San Diego in which the offense failed to score a touchdown for the first time this season.
The Colts have never lost back-to-back games with second-year quarterback Andrew Luck under center. But Denver (6-0) hasn't lost a game this year and has won 17 straight regular-season contests overall.
Manning is on pace to set single-season records for passing yards, touchdowns and quarterback rating, and the Broncos lead the league with an average of 44.2 points per game.
"They're number one across the board in every offensive category," Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis said. "It will be a huge task. We just have to do our job. Don't do anything (extra). You don't have to be a world-beater, just do your job."
Still, Indianapolis can't escape the elephant in the room. Especially for the handful of players who have shared a locker room before with No. 18.