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Should Peyton Manning start against the Chargers?

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Brock Osweiler gives the Broncos the best chance to win, says Ian St. Clair. But starting Peyton Manning on Sunday versus the AFC West's lowly Chargers could have some benefits down the road, says Laurie Lattimore-Volkmann. What do you think?

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This Peyton Manning nonsense has to stop.

He's a legend.

What he has done in his short time in Denver for the Broncos is up there with Floyd Little and John Elway. Manning lifted an organization out of the dregs and made it a contender again.

He is and always will be Peyton Freaking Manning. And that's why it's so hard to let go of the idea of him never playing another football game in a Broncos uniform. So we're here to fire up this debate one last time. Make it your New Year's resolution for this to be the final comment thread you argue/debate/waste time thinking about this topic.

After all, we've got a game to win Sunday, plus three more. We need to move on.

Enough with the fantasy, Peyton will not start again

-Ian St. Clair

Peyton Manning will not start another game this season for Denver. If he does, it will be because Brock Osweiler is hurt. Gary Kubiak and the Broncos cannot risk putting Manning back on the field.

There is too much at stake and unknown to play out a fantasy. The fifth consecutive AFC West title, a first-round bye and potential No. 1 seed is not a time to gamble.

Denver has no idea what it will get from Manning at this point. The Manning fans seem to think he will rekindle what he did in 2013. How? No clue. He hasn't resembled that quarterback since the first half of last season. Unless there's some magic we don't know about, more often than not Manning has been a turnover machine. If one does an honest analysis of his play, he's been terrible and is a liability - as seen in the Kansas City Chiefs game.

He still leads the NFL in interceptions and he hasn't played in five weeks. That's another aspect you have to consider. Manning hasn't played in over a month and some want to risk that because of sentiment?

That doesn't take away from what Manning has done over his Hall of Fame career. It doesn't minimize what he's done and meant to Denver.

Denver knows what it has in Osweiler. In the most important game of the season he was calm, composed and relaxed. He led the offense on four huge drives in the second half. His passes were on point. The situation isn't too big for him. When you take into account what happened against the New England Patriots, that fact is clear.

Here's the other slightly important aspect: He's not turning the ball over.

That doesn't mean he is set for induction in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It doesn't mean he's the second coming of Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers.

What it does mean is Osweiler made his sixth career start in the NFL. He continues to improve. He's building a rapport with his offensive teammates and the coaches - the latter is perhaps the most important. Kubiak and Rick Dennison now trust Osweiler to lead and play their offense. To make plays. To put his teammates in the best place to make that happen.

There was also speculation that Denver would start Manning for one play and then take him out just so he could get the win and the NFL record.

You would think the Manning fans would know their hero better than that. There is no way in hell he would ever accept that slap in the face.

Far too often in the world of sports, we get caught up in the fantasy. From fantasy football to our heroes being larger than life. We want them to get the storybook ending like John Elway and Ray Bourque.

The reality is that's now how it works - in sports or life. It's cruel in that sense.

The memorable finishes of Elway and Bourque stand out because they're so rare. That just doesn't happen. What's far more realistic is how it ended for Champ Bailey. Or to a lesser extent, Terrell Davis.

Bailey earned the right to end his career on a high note. But that's not how it works. Where was the same outrage from the Manning fans for Bailey?

Davis deserved to play 10-12 years and become one of the greatest running backs in NFL history. But that's not how it works.

For hockey fans, specifically Colorado Avalanche fans, how about the gut-crushing ending for Patrick Roy? He had his career end in a Game 7 overtime loss.

With a win on Sunday against the San Diego Chargers, the Broncos get their fifth-straight AFC West title. They clinch a first-round bye. They will know by kickoff if they have a shot at the No. 1 seed and home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

The quarterback who will help make that happen is Osweiler. As it should; especially after the win against the Bengals. He gives the offense the best chance to succeed. He gives the team the best chance to win.

Despite the sentiment and calls for what is deserved or earned, that's what matters most.

That doesn't diminish what Manning has accomplished - on the field or off.

It's just living in the real world.

Give me the fantasy; there's no harm in it

-Laurie Lattimore-Volkmann

Peyton Manning is no doubt among the Greatest Of All Time.

Super Bowl MVP.

Five-time NFL MVP.

NFL record-holder 16 times over.

Future Hall-of-Famer.

Legend.

Yet his understudy, a fourth-year QB with just six NFL starts on his thin resumé, owns the QB1 title on the Broncos' roster. And Brock Osweiler has earned that title.

No - he's won it.

While Manning was sidelined with an injury in Week 10, 'Brockweiler' was thrown into battle and asked to fight. Like a good soldier, he did what he was told and didn't question motives, strategy or extended role. But like a future general, he took command as well as advantage of an opportunity.

This changing of the guard is no longer temporary (keep your INT stats, I already know them). A significant paradigm shift has occurred.

So why on Mile High's orange and blue end zone would I suggest starting Manning this weekend against the Chargers?

Because I've always enjoyed the fantasy.

I know I need to get over it. (Actually I have.)

I know Osweiler is playing better than Manning. (I'm grateful for it.)

I know "going out on top" is not a guarantee - much less an option - for most sports icons. (But I will always root for it).

And I know one player's legacy should never trump an entire team's quest. (So I wouldn't endorse it.)

I'll do whatever is best for the team. ... If they need me to play and be in there, then I'll be ready. If they don't feel that's best for the team, then I'll respect that decision and do what I can to help the team.  -Peyton Manning

Fortunately, my fantasy and the Broncos' reality coincide.

My admiration for Manning might be unprecedented, but I am no apologist. And this isn't about giving Manning something he deserves. You don't deserve to play in the NFL, you have to earn the right for it.

Count me among the multitudes who hoped No. 18 would hoist another Lombardi to finish his NFL career, but I am not delusional. I let go of that fantasy in February 2013 - not because I didn't think he'd be able to do it, but because I understood how virtually impossible it would be to go to back-to-back Super Bowls (Seahawks be damned).

No, my desire to start Manning this week against the Chargers is firmly grounded in my love for the Broncos and hope for a championship run. If it's laced with a little Manning bias, well ...(let it go?)

So I would actually like to see the Broncos start Manning for two of the exact reasons Ian believes he should stay on the bench:

  • We know what we've got in Osweiler right now but not in Manning;
  • Manning hasn't played in six weeks.

There is no reason the Broncos shouldn't beat the Chargers this weekend, so I'm not concerned about losing our playoff hopes. I could be QB and come out with a win for the Orange and Blue. So putting Manning in there to see where his injury recovery stands and how he handles a game situation is far safer - and smarter - in the last regular season game than in a playoff matchup.

And Manning certainly seems willing to fulfill whatever role he needs to for this team.

"It's been an interesting year, I'm not going to lie about that," Manning said. "I've been a good teammate. I've tried to help Brock in anyway I can. So I'll do whatever is best for the team come next week. If they need me to play and be in there, then I'll be ready. If they don't feel the best for the team, then I'll respect that decision and do what I can to help the team."

Where is the harm in starting Manning on Sunday? I understand the downside to a lack of continuity during practice, but these are professional football players who can - and must be able to - play for whoever is under center. Knowing if Manning can handle that role before heading into the playoffs would be some nice insurance.

If Manning plays well, we have confidence in a superb starter and a seriously good backup.

If Manning gets injured against the Chargers, we know Trevor Siemian better be on lockdown with his playbook and game film the next few weeks because he could find himself as the next man up.

If Manning throws balls in the dirt and pick-sixes throughout the first half, we put Osweiler back in to ensure the win and secure the best playoff seed.

If Manning plays well, we have confidence in a superb starter and a seriously good backup (I'll let you decide which is which in my scenario).

And if Manning plays lights out - even against an inferior team - then we have Kubiak to determine if there's a tough decision to be made. But I guarantee that Broncos Country would be giddy with the prospect of knowing our offense could win against anyone with such a solid 1-2 quarterback punch.

That's the reality - playing Manning in the regular season is good for the Broncos in the postseason.

The fantasy? Our GOAT gets one more game in his orange No. 18 while Broncos Country gives Manning what he does deserve - one last Mile High Salute.