ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- **The decision has been made: Peyton Manning will start at quarterback for the Broncos in their divisional-round game on Jan. 17.
Head Coach Gary Kubiak told the team at its Thursday morning meeting that Manning would start. Kubiak met with Manning and Brock Osweiler prior to announcing the decision.
"I just do what I think is best for our football team," Kubiak said. "I feel really good about this, about how far Peyton has come."Manning replaced Brock Osweiler in the third quarter last Sunday when the team was looking for a spark after five giveaways had put the Broncos in a 13-7 hole. It was Manning's first game action since he left the Kansas City loss on Nov. 15 because of a torn plantar fascia.
Manning drove the team 80 yards to a touchdown on his first drive back. With him at the helm, the Broncos scored 20 points in the last quarter and a half to rally for a 27-20 win that clinched the AFC West title and the top seed in the AFC playoffs.
"We were flat-lining a bit offensively at that point in the game," Osweiler said. "Coach felt like that was the best way to generate a spark, and it did. It helped the football team win the game."
The announcement brings some certainty to the Broncos as they begin their preparations for the game, which will be against the lowest remaining AFC seed: Houston, Kansas City or Pittsburgh.
Manning said that his foot is "fine," with no lingering problems that emerged from his quarter and a half of work against the Chargers.
"That was probably an encouraging thing for everybody," Manning said. "I wouldn't have told Coach Kubiak I was ready to dress out last Sunday had I not felt good. I really felt like I put it through a lot of tests during my rehab and I tried to really test it to see, so I felt good going into the game Sunday. I had no issues coming out."
Check out photos from the Broncos' Thursday practice during their first-round bye, including photos of Peyton back taking reps as the starter.
While Manning admitted he's thought about whether this could be his last postseason opportunity, he added that his focus remains solely on the task at hand Jan. 17.
"Look, I'd be lying to say I've never thought [about that]," Manning said. "I know people would say, 'I've never thought about that,' and that's probably not the case.
"But I am excited to be thinking about who we're going to play this weekend, and to have the opportunity to help, to contribute in some way. As far as anything beyond that, there'll be a time and a place for that, but sitting here on Thursday, that's certainly not the time."
Meanwhile, Osweiler will remain ready if needed.
"If anybody knows that you need to be prepared, regardless of the situation, that's me," he said, smiling. "I've lived that for three and a half years, and I will be prepared to play next Sunday, and I will prepare like I was the starter."
"I also know that Brock will be ready to play, because he's proven that throughout the course of this year," added Kubiak. "I'll just make the comment like I've made all along: It's taken all of us, and I think it will continue to take all of us as we embark on this second season."
The Broncos clinched the AFC West and the No. 1 seed in the conference. Here are the top shots of the win.