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Rout in Denver? Only if either quarterback blinks

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As early tests go, the Indianapolis Colts couldn’t have been assigned a tougher one than Sunday night’s opener at Denver.

Don’t know how much fun it will be for the Colts, but it should be a blast for a national television audience.

Provided, of course, it’s not a rout. And it very well could be. For myriad reasons:

If the Colts can’t get their ground game off the ground, it could be a long night for Andrew Luck.

He still operates behind a shaky offensive line, is still developing chemistry with wide receivers (being introduced to Hakeem Nicks and reintroduced to Reggie Wayne) and can’t be expected to continually perform miracles with his arm and legs.

If the Colts can’t maintain constant pressure on Peyton Manning, it could be a long night for the defense.

Week 1, against the most prolific passer in NFL history, who is coming off a season for the ages, is no time to be without suspended sack-master Robert Mathis.

If Manning is bent on avenging last year’s loss at Lucas Oil Stadium and putting his humiliating Super Bowl performance behind him, it could be a long night for the Colts.

Manning has a long memory and would love nothing more than to launch his 17th NFL season with a resounding pounding of his former team.

If Luck gets off to another hot start and picks up with Wayne where he left off, it could be a long night for the Broncos.

That’s what happened during last year’s nationally televised showdown, and it’s just the kind of state Luck is renowned for stealing.

If Manning wilts in the glare of yet another pressure-filled spotlight, it could be a long night for Denver’s offense.

Because the Broncos, like the Colts, go nowhere if their quarterback turns in a performance anything less than immortal.

Oh, yes, it should be fun and likely hinge on who blinks first. Last year, Manning did. Will it be Luck this time?

Don’t count on it.

Even when he’s not been sharp, Luck has never completely fallen apart. Poise is hallmark, and it’s why — after only two NFL seasons — he’s the master of comebacks. No stage is too grand, no moment too big, no spotlight too bright.

Luck simply has a knack to rise to every occasion. It’s why the Colts are 22-10 the past two seasons, including 1-0 against Manning; have been to the playoffs twice; are defending AFC South champions; and are widely projected as Super Bowl contenders.

That’s why Week 1 is so riveting. Anything and everything is possible when Luck and Manning share center stage.

Will the Colts storm out with an unlikely road win against the defending AFC champions?

Will Peyton Manning be out for blood and throw for nine touchdowns, as a Denver columnist recently predicted?

Will Luck upstage the five-time MVP for a second straight year on national television?

Or will the Luck/Manning showdown simply be a lot of fun to watch but have no bearing on what happens 17 weeks later?

Check back in January.

We’ll have all the answers by then.

Rick Morwick is the sports editor of the Johnson County Daily Journal. Send comments to rmorwick@dailyjournal.net.

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