|Michael Conroy / Associated Press|
|The last time Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning met the two helped combine to put up 72 points.|
One reliable preview. One key factor to decide the game. It's that simple. After seven long months without football, the NFL is back with a slate of intriguing Week 1 games. A Sunday night, prime-time showcase between the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High features plenty of potential for offensive fireworks from a number of players. It also features a classic aging veteran vs. up-and-coming youngster quarterback showdown. Let's dive right into what sort of fun fans can expect.
Air & Ground matchup of Week 1
Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos (Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC) -- Peyton Manning's fifth MVP season featured single-season records for touchdown passes (55) and passing yards (5,477) en route to leading the Broncos to an NFL-record 606 points scored (Denver was the first team to eclipse 600 points in a single season). What could Manning and the Broncos possibly do for a follow-up performance? Well, go on another run to the Super Bowl, and that quest starts Sunday.
The Broncos' opponent feature one of the top young quarterbacks in the game, Andrew Luck. While Luck aims to continue to appropriately fill Manning's big shoes in Indianapolis, he'll count on his potent duo of receivers (Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton) and hope to get better production than the 2.9 yards-per-carry average Trent Richardson dropped during the 2013 season.
The two team's previous meeting -- a 39-33 Colts victory last season -- offers hope for an offensive onslaught. Luck and Manning each had three touchdown passes in the thriller (which also took place on a Sunday night).
One breakout player to watch
Montee Ball, RB, Broncos -- Ball was promoted to starter after Knowshon Moreno was allowed to leave via free agency. Ball was used sparingly as a rookie in 2013, rushing for 559 yards on 120 attempts for four touchdowns. Ball entered the league after a decorated college career at Wisconsin, where he set FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) records for most career rushing touchdowns (77) and most career total touchdowns (83). Ball already has a 100-yard rushing game under his belt, and there's optimism that Ball has many more ahead of him.
Great Moments in Air & Ground History
Colts 41, Broncos 10 (2003 AFC Wild Card Game) -- Manning -- then a member of the Colts -- torched the Broncos for 377 yards passing and five touchdowns (four in his team's first four possessions) in an overwhelming playoff victory in the RCA Dome. Brandon Stokley and Marvin Harrison each had a pair of touchdowns and went over 100 yards receiving, gaining 144 and 133 yards, respectively. Harrison's first touchdown of the game is memorable for its zany nature. After catching a pass at the Broncos' 30-yard line, Harrison lay on the turf untouched as two Denver players argued over a missed assignment. Harrison quickly got up and scampered into the end zone to give Indianapolis a 14-3 lead.
Follow Jim Reineking on Twitter @jimreineking.