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Gary Kubiak: ‘No hurry’ when it comes to decision on Peyton Manning 02.24.16 at 2:07 pm ET
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Peyton Manning is still a possibility to return in 2016. (Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

No timetable has been set for a decision on Peyton Manning‘s future, according to Denver coach Gary Kubiak. (Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS — Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said Wednesday there was “no hurry here” when it came to making a decision on the status of Peyton Manning for 2016 and beyond.

Denver, which won the Super Bowl a month ago, is facing a major decision at the quarterback spot: bring back the 39-year-old Manning for another season, or turn its attention to youngster Brock Osweiler, who will be a free agent next month.

“I want him to enjoy what just took place. We’ll go from there,” Kubiak said while addressing reporters at the scouting combine. “Nothing has changed from that standpoint. That plan continues to be in place. I think he and [Executive Vice President of Football Operations/General Manager] John [Elway] have had some conversations. I had a brief one with him [Tuesday]. We will be talking probably today or I know this week. We want him to take his time and we’ll work from there. Nothing has changed.”

Of course, there’s no rule that says the Broncos can’t bring both of them back, it’s likely not cost effective, at least in this instance. If Manning is with the Broncos on March 9, his $19 million salary would become guaranteed. Meanwhile Osweiler would become an unrestricted free agent, and his performance in relief of Manning this past year could mean he’d garner a handsome payday.

Kubiak was asked if there was a specific timeframe when the team expects a decision by Manning

“I wouldn’t say that,” he said. “I think it’s free agency and all of those things leading up to it. There are obviously time frames in our business, but I think we kind of went through this last year and we’re going to stick to it exactly how we did it last year.”

As for Osweiler, he went 5-2 as a starter, including a dramatic overtime win over the Patriots in November. He ended the year with 10 touchdown passes and six interceptions.

“I think he has a bright future, obviously,” Kubiak said of the 25-year-old Osweiler. “He did a heck of a job for us. He started seven games for us. He played against some really good people in some tough situations. He played very well. I think he has a bright future. Obviously we think the world of him. We want him to be a part of our football team. We have a lot of guys that free [agents] like that. He’s been real special with the job he’€s done this year. I think he’s grown a great deal.”

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Read More: 2016 NFL combine, Gary Kubiak, Peyton Manning,
‘Locked in’ Broncos trying to decode Bill Belichick, Patriots on eve of AFC championship 01.23.16 at 1:11 pm ET
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Gary Kubiak coached the Broncos to a win over the Patriots in the snow Nov. 29. (Chris Humphreys/USA TODAY Sports)

Gary Kubiak coached the Broncos to a win over the Patriots in the snow Nov. 29. (Chris Humphreys/USA TODAY Sports)

DENVER — With all of the hay pretty much in the barn for Sunday’s AFC championship, the final hours for both teams here will be spent resting and going over final details of the game plan.

For the Patriots, they know they have a lot on their plate in getting ready for a Peyton Manning offense that can change on the fly as well as any in football. And they have their home crowd to help keep Tom Brady from doing the same, or least with the same ease.

For the Broncos, their focus is more on trying to get a feel for what Bill Belichick might do once the game starts. That can be a very tricky proposition for any opponent.

“I would just say that he’€™s very difficult to prepare for,” Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said in his final media availability on Friday. “His team is very difficult to prepare for because they do so many things. I’€™ve made the comment throughout the course of the week; I think they do a tremendous job of coaching, doing a lot of things.

“Their players handle a lot. When you play Bill’€™s teams, you can show up on Sunday and you could have worked on one thing all week and they’€™re doing something totally different. To me, that’€™s a credit to them, their staff and what they do. They’€™ve been there for a reason. Five AFC Championships in a row. Very consistent in what they do and a great football team.”

While there has been much made of the Broncos talking about the Patriots players, the sentiment about the Patriots coach is nothing but respect.

“I just think they’€™re well-coached,” tight end Owen Daniels said. “They understand what the opposing offense is trying to do. I’€™ve played against these guys a bunch of times over the past three or four years. It seems like they do a pretty darn good job of knowing the scheme and knowing who we’€™re looking to try to get the ball to or who might just be a decoy route on the back side sometimes.

“They’€™re aware of all of that stuff. As an offense, you want to just, in general, throw as much at them in terms of personnel groupings or formations to have them think about it as much as possible so that they can’€™t react as quickly as they typically would. This time of year, I’€™m sure we’€™ll see something different out of them that we haven’€™t seen and vice versa. That’€™s going to make Sunday pretty exciting.”

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Read More: 2016 NFL playoffs, Bill Belichick, Denver Broncos, Gary Kubiak
Gary Kubiak says Chris Harris (shoulder) is ‘fine to go… had a good week’ at 12:16 pm ET
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Broncos cornerback Chris Harris (25) breaks up a pass against the Steelers in the AFC Divisional round last Sunday. (Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports)

Broncos cornerback Chris Harris (25) breaks up a pass against the Steelers in the AFC Divisional round last Sunday. (Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports)

DENVER — The Broncos will have their full complement of defensive backs to try and thwart Tom Brady‘s passing arsenal on Sunday.

After suffering a shoulder injury in the regular season finale against San Diego, and clearly limited in the the 23-16 win over the Steelers last Sunday, starting right corner Chris Harris Jr. was considered a big question mark heading into the AFC championship against the Patriots.

Even team president John Elway said earlier in the week that the key defensive back was a “game-time” decision.

But Broncos coach Gary Kubiak, unlike his counterpart in New England, was comfortable Friday in making a pronouncement two days before the game as to his availability.

“I think Chris is fine,” Kubiak said. “All these guys are listed as probable, I should say. Everybody on our list is probable. He’€™s had a good week.”

After Thursday’s practice, Harris hinted that he was much better.

“I’€™m light years better than I was last week,” Harris said. “I felt more comfortable [this week] putting hands on cats, and putting hands on and holding them and kind of have them break away from me. I gain that confidence, as long as there are no setbacks, I should be good to go.”

Will Harris be on a play count?

“Everything I’€™ve seen this week in practice tells me Chris is fine to go,” Kubiak added. “I think with every player, you’€™re watching them, but he’€™s had a really good week and I think he’€™s doing a lot better than he did going into last week’€™s game.

“Just watching him work, watching him do the things that he does when he’€™s covering well and being physical. He’€™s been able to do that all week, so we’€™ve had a good week of work. The guys have given him really good looks, so we’€™re ready to go.”

With Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola out on Nov. 29, the Patriots had Keshawn Martin and Brandon LaFell, with Harris in coverage on LaFell much of the night. With Edelman and Amendola back, the Broncos could start throw a number of different defensive looks at the Patriots receivers, with left corner Aqib Talib on the other side of the Broncos secondary.

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Read More: 2016 NFL playoffs, Chris Harris, Denver Broncos, Gary Kubiak
Scout’s Take: 3 keys to victory for Patriots, Broncos in AFC title game 01.22.16 at 1:25 pm ET
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Peyton Manning and Tom Brady will meet Sunday with the AFC title at stake. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Peyton Manning and Tom Brady will meet Sunday with the AFC title at stake. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

To help break down this weekend’s AFC championship game between the Patriots and Broncos, we’ve sought some guidance from Dan Hatman, a former scout for the Eagles, Giants and Jets who now is the director of scouting development at The Scouting Academy. Because Dan’s notes are so thorough, there’s not much of a need for our usual explainers at the end — so without further ado, here are three keys to victory for New England and three keys to victory for Denver.

Three keys to victory for the Patriots:

1. Separation quickness from receivers. Denver defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has the personnel and likes to leverage man coverage frequently. Having tight (press) alignments in the first five to seven yards decreases the ease of getting the ball out of your hand quickly. Brady made the offensive lines’ job easier last week by getting the ball out quickly (by my count, he averaged 2.19 seconds to throw, the lowest in the playoffs). His receivers will need to help him do the same against another tough pass rush front.

2. Bigger impact from Chandler Jones. He is the best pass rusher on the unit and Jones will be needed to disrupt Peyton’s footwork — even if he doesn’t get home. Peyton needs his whole body and delivery process in order to maximize his arm strength, and Jones needs to get him off his spot, or delivering from a poor platform where intermediate passes can become jump balls. Peyton is also the only quarterback with a shorter average time to throw than Brady (2.31 vs. 2.35).

3. James White vs. Brandon Marshall. White has been heavily used in the passing game in the recent weeks, and with the obvious tell that he brings when he steps on the field (the Patriots have thrown it on almost 100 percent of his snaps when he’s been on the field), it becomes less about misdirection, and more about whether can White separate consistently from linebackers like Marshall and Danny Trevathan in order to provide another weapon in the short passing game for Brady.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Brandon Marshall, chandler jones, Danny Trevathan
Mike Florio on D&C: Broncos ‘going to want to move on once and for all’ from Peyton Manning after season at 10:14 am ET
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Mike Florio

Mike Florio

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk and NBC sports made his weekly appearance on Dennis & Callahan with Minihane on Friday morning to preview the AFC championship game. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

With Manning vs. Brady XVII on the horizon, one of the big questions this week has been whether or not this will be Peyton Manning‘s final season in the league.

“If he had never come back and played, if November 15 against the Chiefs had been all we had seen of Manning this year, I think he would have been far more inclined to try to play next year to eliminate the whole Willie Mays stink that would have attached to him,” Florio said. “Just to come back and show, ‘I’m going out on my own terms, I can still play at a high level.’ But now I think it’s harder for him to play anywhere else next year, because he made it to the AFC championship game. And he came back and he acquitted himself well Week 17, and he played well enough to win last week. I mean, it wasn’t beautiful, but he played well enough to win. so I think it makes it harder for him to go somewhere else next year.

“I don’t think the Broncos want him in 2016. John Elway already is refusing to talk about it, they’re not going to want to pay him $19 million, they’re going to want to move on once and for all and find a guy that fits Gary Kubiak‘s system better. So I just think that the fact that he came back and played in two games and played well enough to advance to the AFC championship game is going to make it very hard for him to go somewhere where he doesn’t believe he can get as far or farther. And I can’t think of a team out there where he jumps right in and they’re immediately a final four team.”

Former Colts general manager and current ESPN analyst Bill Polian said recently that Manning is playing at a higher level than Tom Brady. Florio called out the “hothead” for his lack of objectivity.

“With Polian, it’s obvious. Polian drafted the guy. He’s hardly objective, he’s hated the Patriots for years, he lobbied for rule changes after the Patriots kicked the Colts’ butts in the playoffs back 10, 12 years ago. I don’t take anything Polian says on the topic with any degree of credibility,” Florio said. “How can he be credible on it? How can he be? … He obviously has a bias, and he should preface anything he says about Manning and Brady with that reality.”

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Read More: 2016 NFL playoffs, Bill Polian, Gary Kubiak, Mike Florio
Bill Belichick will ‘never, ever, ever underestimate [Peyton Manning] under any circumstances’ 01.20.16 at 2:19 pm ET
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Peyton Manning and Bill Belichick have knocked heads on several occasions. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Peyton Manning and Bill Belichick have knocked heads on several occasions. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Bill Belichick has been burned enough times by Peyton Manning to know that looks can be very deceiving.

That’s why when everyone is talking about Manning’s arm strength – or lack thereof – the Patriots coach is focused on what the quarterback does to make the best of what’s around him.

“Peyton’s a great player,” Belichick said Wednesday. “We’ve had tremendous battles against him through the years.”

Belichick has squared off against Manning 19 times in the past, with the Patriots coach holding a 12-7 advantage, including 2-2 in the playoffs.

“There’s no player off our team that I have any more respect for than Peyton Manning. His preparation, his consistency, his skills. I would never ever, ever underestimate him under any circumstances.”

In other words, Manning still has a running game, and it’s the running game that allowed Brock Osweiler to beat the Patriots on Nov. 29 in overtime. The Patriots allowed 179 yards on 32 carries that night. C.J. Anderson had 15 carries for 113 yards, including the game-winning 48-yarder around left end in overtime.

How does Belichick think his counterpart Gary Kubiak will play it with Manning calling the signals this time?

“I don’t know,” Belichick answered. “We’ve got to be ready for Denver, that’s their coaching staff, their players, their great players and whatever it is they decide to do. That’s what we’re going to prepare for.”

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

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Read More: 2016 NFL playoffs, Bill Belichick, Denver Broncos, Gary Kubiak
Potential Playoff Opponent: Broncos 01.09.16 at 8:00 am ET
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It'll be Peyton Manning under center at the start of the postseason for the Broncos. (Elsa/Getty Images)

It’ll be Peyton Manning under center at the start of the postseason for the Broncos. (Elsa/Getty Images)

With the playoff picture set, it’s time to size up the possible postseason opponents for the Patriots. We’ve looked at the Texans, Steelers, Chiefs and Bengals. We’ll wrap things up with the top seed in the AFC, the Broncos.

The skinny: Few teams have had to endure a regular-season as eventful as the 2015 Broncos. There were the injuries suffered by Peyton Manning, the decision to go to backup Brock Osweiler, the dominant defensive performance for a sizable chunk of the regular season, and the cloud of HGH charges that now hang over Manning’s head as he prepares to lead the team into the postseason. It’s been a wild ride for Denver, but it was still able to secure the No. 1 seed in the AFC, and will have the benefit of home field throughout the playoffs as a result. But there are still questions about the Broncos as the playoffs loom, including what sort of performance is Manning capable of delivering, how quickly Gary Kubiak might be inclined to go to his bench, and whether or not the defense and a burgeoning ground game can carry them through times of trouble. Regardless, things certainly won’t be boring this month in Denver.

Offense: Let’s start with the assumption that Manning (61 percent completion rate, 2,249 passing yards, 9 TDs, 17 INTs) will be under center for the Broncos, which is an odd decision in itself because, at least from this viewpoint, Osweiler (62 percent completion rate, 1,967 passing yards, 10 TDs, 6 INTs) gives Denver a better chance to win. (He’s a far better fit for the Kubiak system than Manning. And have we mentioned the fact that Manning has gone one-and-done in the playoffs a whopping nine times?) But if Manning’s the one, expect him to lean on a variety of targets in the passing game to help move the chains, namely Demaryius Thomas (105 catches, 177 targets, 1,304 receiving yards, 6 TDs) and Emmanuel Sanders (76 catches, 136 targets, 1,135 receiving yards, 6 TDs). On the ground, Ronnie Hillman (207 carries, 863 rushing yards, 7 TDs, 4.2 yards per carry) and C.J. Anderson (152 carries, 720 rushing yards, 5 TDs, 4.7 ypc) carry the load.

Overall, Denver was 16th in total offense in the regular season with an average of 355.5 total yards per game. The Broncos were 14th in the league in passing (248.1 yards per game), and were 17th when it came to running the football (107.4 yards per game). Denver was 19th in the league in scoring at 22.2 points per contest during the regular season.

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Read More: 2016 NFL playoffs, Aqib Talib, Brandon McManus, Britton Colquitt
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