With the Broncos set to face the Patriots in this week's AFC Championship Game, an unknown future stands in the way of Peyton Manning and the 2014 season. Coming off a career year in which he threw 5477 yards and 55 touchdowns, Manning's contributions on the field and in the playoffs could be overshadowed by rumors and hearsay once the 2013/2014 season officially ends.
On January 12th, sources told ESPN Senior NFL Insider Chris Mortensen that Manning's future will be determined by the results of an exam on his surgically-repaired neck that is scheduled to take place in March. If the exam shows that Manning's neck is stable, he'll be good to go as the starter in 2014. But, if Manning's neck shows that there is a risk of increased damage if he continues playing, Manning will be forced to decide whether to retire.
When asked about his career following the win against the Chargers last weekend, Manning was more concerned about getting his hands on a Bud Light. You're a great player Peyton, but your choice in beer is terrible.
As you remember, Manning missed the entire 2011 season when the Colts placed him on injured reserve after Manning was told by doctors that he needed to undergo spinal fusion surgery. Manning was eventually released in March of 2012, Andrew Luck took over as the Colts' new starter, and Manning set out on his new career with the Broncos.
With a very good chance that Manning will take another team to a Super Bowl victory, his first coming in 2006, Manning could very well opt to take the John Elway route and go out on top regardless of the neck tests. 2 potential Super Bowl victories, multiple MVP awards and countless broken records could be enough for Manning to see the light and call it quits. Set to turn 38 in a little under 2 months, it's clear Manning doesn't have much time left. The Hall of Fame will come calling eventually.
As far as fantasy football is concerned, there really is no fantasy spin at the moment. It's actually quite simple: If Manning plays in 2014, he's a top 5 QB1 hands down. Demaryius Thomas still has one year left on his deal. Eric Decker could walk to find bigger money elsewhere in free agency, but the Denver offense won't miss a beat if Decker is gone. Wes Welker can easily slide into Decker's old spot, with an emerging Andre Caldwell taking over slot duties. And don't forget 2013 surprise TE Julius Thomas.
Backup QB Brock Osweiler also becomes an intriguing name as many have speculated he is destined to be the heir to Manning's starting job once Manning retires. He's a name dynasty leaguers should look out for.
Whether you are or you aren't a Broncos fan, I implore you to watch the game against the Patriots. This could be the last weekend you see one of the all-time greats take the field for the very last time.