In case you hadn't heard, the Indianapolis Colts will play the Denver Broncos on Sunday Night Football to kick off their 2014 regular season next Sunday. Of course, that means that former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning will be facing his former team for the second time.
In anticipation of last year's game, I wrote about my thoughts as a Colts fan watching Peyton play for another team and then play the Colts, and it was certainly a unique experience for Colts fans. For some of the players, too, playing Peyton is a strange thing. Only seven current Colts were around when Peyton Manning was with the Colts: Reggie Wayne, Robert Mathis (who is suspended and not on the active roster), Adam Vinatieri, Fili Moala (who is on injured reserve), Pat McAfee, Joe Reitz (who is injured), and Anthony Castonzo. All seven of those players were impacted by Peyton Manning, but none more so than receiver Reggie Wayne. Not only did he play with Peyton more than any of the others, but he was also Manning's top target for many years and a great friend of the quarterback. He summed up the feelings toward playing Peyton Manning perfectly when talking to the Indianapolis Star' Phil Richards.
"He's my brother," Reggie said of Peyton. "He's the enemy."
And that's perfectly accurate. Peyton Manning is the opposing quarterback now, and he's going to be trying to win a Super Bowl - which means that he's standing in the way of the Colts' efforts to do the same. When the Colts travel to Denver for Sunday night's primetime matchup, it'll be more than Peyton Manning versus his former team. It'll be Colts versus Broncos - two of the best in the AFC and two of the best in the league, playing each other to kick off the season. Despite it being week one, this is a game that could have big playoff implications. In fact, in my prediction for the Colts season, I have both the Colts and Broncos finishing 12-4. But, since I have the Colts losing to Denver week one, the Broncos would get the AFC's number one seed. As much as there's the attention for it being Manning vs. his former team (and we'll certainly cover that aspect plenty this week too), the Colts need to focus on actually playing a game against the defending AFC champion on the road against arguably the greatest quarterback of all time. That's no easy task.
Richards (one of the best feature writers there is) wrote more about Wayne's comments:
Wayne's quarterback on Sunday will be Luck. Wayne's brother will be his enemy, just as is the case when his path crosses with future Pro Football Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed, Wayne's roommate for four years at the University of Miami and closest confederate aside from family. Wayne is 8-3 against Reed, who is currently a free agent.
"I want to beat him every time," Wayne said. "Once the whistle blows, you're their enemy. When the fourth quarter comes and it's all zeroes on there, now we can laugh and talk about whatever it is.
"That's just the attitude of a football player."
For players like Reggie Wayne who played with Peyton, and fans who watched him, it's still weird, strange, and just plain not right seeing Manning in the orange number 18 jersey. He'll always be a Colt to us - except for this Sunday, when he'll be facing his team. This Sunday, as Wayne noted, Peyton is the enemy.