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Peyton Manning over Brock Osweiler: Broncos making a mistake at QB?

Last week, Denver Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak named Peyton Manning the starting quarterback in Sunday's AFC Divisional Round against the Pittsburgh Steelers. It will be his first start since Week 10 -- a week in which he threw four picks and was benched for Brock Osweiler.

The Broncos finished the regular season on a 5-2 run with Osweiler as their starter. Osweiler, who has a passer rating of 86.4 in his eight games (seven starts), was benched in the third quarter against the Chargers in Week 17. Manning, despite his lowly 67.9 passer rating on the season, led Denver to a victory, which solidified the top seed in the AFC playoffs.

With all that said, are the Broncos making a mistake in giving the starting job back to Manning?

I think the Broncos are making a mistake by starting Manning for several reasons. He's had one good game all year. In the first nine games of the season, Manning didn't play well, and everyone forgot because they won their first seven games. Until Week 16, Manning was leading the league in INTs and he hadn't been playing since Week 10. Gary Kubiak recently said Manning looks as fresh as he did in Week 1, but if you look at tape from Week 1, it wasn't pretty. It's not about being fresh -- it's about if he can grip the ball and make throws like he used to.

When Osweiler led the Broncos over New England, he made four throws that Manning isn't capable of making right now. Manning's mind can still beat anybody, but he can't physically make the big plays. Osweiler isn't a tenth of the quarterback Manning's been over his career, but right now, Osweiler has arm strength and the ability to make plays inside Kubiak's offense that Manning can't.

I would live with the mistakes of Osweiler, knowing that I could stretch the field and run wider stretch-zone run plays because he can be under center and get out faster. I'd take the chance of riding with my defense if Osweiler were to make young-quarterback plays. Kubiak is making the right decision. I think a lot of teams are still scared of Manning and what he's capable of. If he can throw the ball, it's going to open up the run game, which is what we saw in Week 17 when he came in for Osweiler. Manning has limitations, and they will allow Pittsburgh to condense the field. Manning doesn't throw the ball outside the numbers, so the Steelers won't have to worry about the deep ball. If they jam the middle of the field and press the receivers, the Steelers can take away the Broncos' passing game. In addition, based on how Kubiak likes to execute his run game, there's no threat of the bootleg or a quarterback run. Without having to worry about those two things with Peyton, Pittsburgh defenders can pursue and shut down the run game.

There's a reason the Broncos went to Osweiler outside of Manning being hurt, and the offense began to progress with the youngster under center. Now that everyone knows Peyton is the quarterback again, teams will do the same thing they did earlier in the season to stop him. The reason the Broncos brought Peyton back was to make a Super Bowl run. They made a commitment to him and restructured his contract so they could afford it. He needs to win three games during the postseason to get the ultimate prize. They've given him all the time to rest and get healthy.

Osweiler and Kubiak will be in Denver together for a long time. But the Broncos asked Manning to come back this season, and I think they owe him the opportunity to win it all, whether it plays well or poorly. Manning should start against the Steelers. If you choose to play Osweiler instead of Manning, I need his arm strength to look good, not close to the same as Manning's.

When coming off the bench in Week 17, I think Manning was able to realize he can't throw the ball 30-35 times and expect to win. He's not what he used to be, and he recognizes he needs to lean on the run to win. The better choice would be to start Osweiler. When comparing the two quarterbacks, it's easier to game plan against Manning because of his advanced age and the way he's playing. Against Osweiler, you game plan for a tall, strong-armed quarterback who can run. There is zero threat for Manning to run, which means defenses can drop people back into coverage and not have to worry about the QB scrambling for a first down.

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