The speculation about whether or not Peyton Manning will be on the field for the season opener against Houston Texans is one of the big stories leading up to the 2011-12 season.  And why wouldn’t it be?  Manning has taken every snap (excluding the preseason) for the Colts over the past 13 seasons while being one of the best, if not the best, quarterbacks in the league over that time period.  He currently has 208 consecutive starts, which is good for second in NFL history behind Brett Favre’s 297.  But Manning’s streak could be in jeopardy come Sept. 11.

It is unknown at this point whether or not Manning will be healthy enough to start the regular season after undergoing surgery to repair a bulging disk in his neck this past May.  To add insult to injury, Manning wasn’t able to work with team trainers in the offseason because of the lockout, which has slowed his recovery considerably.  But even with the setbacks Manning has encountered, I don’t see any way he doesn’t play in the season opener.  I can say this with confidence because, well, he is Peyton Manning.

I emulate the feelings of Manning’s former head coach, Tony Dungy, when he said that Manning will be playing in the season opener “unless he’s dead.”  Dungy probably knows Manning better than anyone and I tend to agree with him on this one.  History tells us that Manning will be just fine.  It seems like he’s had some sort of minor injury or minor procedure done in the offseason for the past few years, but he always ends up being the same old consistent Peyton Manning we have all come to know, even though sometimes it takes him a few games to get back into the swing of things.

The only concern I have with Manning this season as opposed to previous seasons is that he is another year older.  And as we all know, with age comes slower recovery time and nagging injuries that don’t go away as quickly as they used to.  But Manning is used to playing through pain, neck pain in particular.  He had surgery to correct pain in his neck caused by a pinched nerve back in 2010.  The so-called injury was something that Manning had been experiencing for a while, but figured out a way to continue playing through the pain.  Meanwhile, he was statistically having another great season.

During the 2010-11 regular season, Manning posted career highs in completions (450), attempts (679) and yards (4,700).  He also threw 33 touchdowns, which was tied for the second-most in his career.  The reason for such gaudy numbers was a result of the Colts’ lack of a consistent running game and the fact they were always playing from behind.  But despite not having much help around him, Manning still managed to lead his team to a 10-6 regular season record and yet another playoff appearance.

It will be interesting to see how this season pans out for Manning and the Colts.  But as we all know, the Colts are only as good as Manning allows them to be.  If something unforeseen happens and he’s not able to play in the season opener or for any length of time after that, the Colts are screwed.  They would have to rely on Dan Orlovsky and Curtis Painter to save their season, which could result in a very, very ugly finish.  Luckily, for Colts fans, they still have the most reliable, consistent quarterback in the league.  Unluckily, for Ravens fans, they don’t play Manning and the Colts until Dec. 11, which means they will almost certainly be seeing No. 18 on the field.

Submitted by Steve Giles