Playing in freezing weather is bad enough for any football player, but when you've spent your entire 13-year career playing half your games in a dome, well ... it's a bit of an adjustment. And Peyton Manning is a bit late in his career for adjustments, right?
Maybe not. Maybe the ol' Bronco is learning a new trick. But he'd better hurry.
To start: Manning has never been known as a clutch cold-weather quarterback; according to ESPN stats, he's started three playoff games when the temperature was below 40 degrees, and he's lost all three: twice in New England and once against the Jets. Saturday's temperature in Denver for the Broncos' divisional matchup against the Ravens is forecast at 18 degrees at the 2:30 Mountain Time kickoff.
That wouldn't seem to bode well for Manning, except for the fact that he's had time to get adjusted to the crisp Denver air. And he's done so with the help of a throwing-hand glove, a piece of equipment he's never used before.
Call the glove a happy accident. Manning began wearing it not just because of the cold, but because of his neck injury, which has made it more difficult to grip the ball with his throwing hand. And since below-freezing weather turns the pigskin into a slick, leathery brick, the glove helps Manning keep a secure grip on the ball.
"I certainly don't think I would have had to wear the glove had I not been injured last year," Manningsaid this week. "It's part of my injury, some things that I've had to adjust."
The glove has helped, or at least not hurt: two weeks ago, Manning threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns against Kansas City. The gametime temperature then was below 30 degrees.
The Ravens, on the other hand, have a bit of familiarity with cold-weather temperatures; they don't get a trip to San Diego every year. Under head coach John Harbaugh, the Ravens are 10-7 when the temperature is below 40 degrees at kickoff.
Cold weather or not, oddsmakers are favoring Peyton and the Broncos. The line on this game favors Denver by about 9.5 points, regardless of weather.