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Target for Peyton's return: Week 15 vs. Steelers

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When the Denver Broncos announced Peyton Manning would be out two weeks, they attached the "at least" modifier. Expect more than two weeks.

NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Thursday on NFL GameDay Morning that Manning is at least three weeks from playing.

"The official release was that Manning would be out at least two weeks -- my understanding is it's at least three weeks (from playing)," Rapoport said on NFL Network. "Here's why: He's going to be in a cast for up to 10 days, then he's got another week of rehab, and then he's got to try to get on the field. So the date to circle on your calendar is Dec. 20 against the Steelers. That's the most realistic date that Manning could be back, but no one has guaranteed to me that he'll definitely be back on the field, especially if Brock Osweiler is playing well."

Osweiler is the key to the entire Manning timeline. If he continues the steady play he displayed in his first start, the Broncos can keep Manning on ice. If he implodes as defenses get more tape on the young quarterback, the urgency to get Manning back on the field might grow.

The Broncos hope the former occurs and they are left with a difficult choice about whether to keep a legend on the sidelines.

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