Extra Points: Broncos, Cowboys, Draft

With quarterback Peyton Manning nearing a return from injury, the Broncos are on the brink of having to make the most important decision of their season, Troy Renck of The Denver Post offers.

The 39-year-old Manning was having a bottom-of-the-barrel season before he landed on the shelf in mid-November with a torn plantar fascia in his left foot, and his loss looked like addition by subtraction as the Brock Osweiler era got off to a solid beginning. Osweiler’s first three starts all ended up as wins for Denver, but some shine wore off two weeks ago in a 17-3 victory over a horrific San Diego team and matters worsened in a 15-12 loss to Oakland last Sunday.

Manning will be inactive for Sunday’s game against playoff-caliber Pittsburgh, but he’s likely to be healthy enough for activation by Week 16. That means Osweiler might be playing for the starting job at Heinz Field. As Renck points out, Denver’s Osweiler-led offense has gone 23 straight possessions without scoring a touchdown, which isn’t going to cut it with a prolific Steelers offense on the other side. With another underwhelming showing from Osweiler, head coach Gary Kubiak could turn back to Manning as the playoffs near.

Some other NFL news and notes:

  • Tonight is potentially the end of the Matt Cassel era in Dallas. The 33-year-old has fared poorly in place of Tony Romo this season, and he’ll be on a short leash against the Jets, ESPN’s Ed Werder tweets. The Cowboys’ current No. 2 QB, Kellen Moore, got some first-team reps in practice this week and could see his first action since going undrafted out of Boise State in 2012.
  • Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright capped off an injury-riddled junior year Saturday by announcing he’ll enter the 2016 draft, Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk reports. A foot injury cost Wright all but three games this season, making it a disappointing follow-up to a highly productive 2014 campaign that saw him earn All-America honors, the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Award, the Jack Lambert Award (nation’s best linebacker), and the Chuck Bednarik Award (nation’s top defender).
  • A list of the top 20 failed free agent signings from last offseason reveals predictable names – Dwayne Bowe, DeMarco Murray, Brandon Browner, among others – but also mentions lower-tier additions like Tampa’s Bruce Carter and Arizona’s Sean Weatherspoon, Alex Marvez of FoxSports.com writes. Both Carter and Weatherspoon were beaten out early for starting linebacker jobs.

Sam Robinson contributed to this report.

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