Peyton Manning’s comeback trail meets Ray Lewis’s farewell tour on Saturday when Manning’s Denver Broncos host the Baltimore Ravens in the second round of the NFL playoffs.
Manning, a four-time NFL Most Valuable Player who missed all of the 2011 season after multiple neck surgeries, rewarded the faith of his new team in Denver with a stellar campaign that included 4,659 passing yards and 37 touchdown passes.
With the 36-year-old veteran quarterback at the helm the Broncos won their last 11 regular-season games to grab the top seed and home field advantage in the American Conference.
After enjoying a bye they’ll try to fend off a Ravens side energized in the first round by the return from injury of defensive star Lewis, who says this playoff push will be his last before he departs the NFL whenever Baltimore’s season ends.
The Ravens booked their second-round ticket with a 24-9 victory over Indianapolis last weekend.
Quarterback Joe Flacco threw for 282 yards and two touchdowns in that contest, but it was the return of 17-year veteran Lewis, for his first game since he suffered a torn triceps in mid-October, that added a real spark for the Ravens, especially after his announcement days before the game that this would be his last NFL season.
The Broncos beat the Ravens 34-17 in a regular-season contest in December, and Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin said the team are keen to avenge that defeat and move a step closer to a Super Bowl berth.