Peyton Manning is close to returning, and despite his struggles it's still a blessing for the Broncos

It sounds like Peyton Manning won’t be sidelined for much longer in Denver.

The AP reports that Manning will return to Broncos’ practice Wednesday after missing four weeks with a partially-torn plantar fascia. Although Brock Osweiler is still scheduled to start Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, that Manning is beginning to practice this week means he’ll likely replace Osweiler before the playoffs.

Manning last played on November 8, when he was benched after going 5-20 for 35 yards and throwing four interceptions. Shortly thereafter, it was reported that Manning had partially torn his plantar fascia and the Broncos named Osweiler the starter for the foreseeable future.

In Osweiler’s four weeks as the team’s QB, the Broncos have gone 3-1. They remain in command of the AFC West and in prime position to earn a first-round bye come the playoffs. However, in recent weeks Osweiler and the Denver offence have grown stale, failing to score an offensive touchdown in the past seven quarters.

Prior to his injury, Manning was having the worst season of his storied career. Despite not playing for the past month, he still leads the NFL with 17 interceptions. He’s only thrown nine touchdowns and has completed just 59.9% of his passes. At 39-years-old, Manning is not long for the NFL; following his injury many speculated whether he’d ever play again.

Despite Manning’s struggles, the Broncos will unquestionably still prefer his experience and football savviness to Osweiler for the final games of the season and the playoffs. If Osweiler and the Broncos lose to the Steelers on Sunday (they are currently 6.5-point underdogs), and the surging Chiefs beat the Ravens (they are favoured by 7.5 points), the Broncos will only hold a one-game lead with two weeks left. Week 15 sees the Broncos face the Bengals in a key AFC game that could decide playoff seeding — expect Manning then.

Numerous NFL Insiders have speculated that if Manning didn’t return this season he’d be more likely to return next year, simply because he wouldn’t want his final football game to be the Nov. 8 game against the Chiefs — the worst of his career.

Now, it’s likely Manning will play his final game of the season — and career — in the playoffs. Who knows, it could even be against the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship, just like old times.

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