ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Peyton Manning's mind is on New England, not his neck.
When answering a question last week about whether he could still enjoy the playoffs given his previous postseason disappointments, Manning dropped in a phrase that "the light is at the end of the tunnel for me, no question."
Meaning, that at age 37 he certainly has more games and seasons behind him than ahead.
After Denver's 24-17 win over San Diego on Sunday that sent the Broncos to the AFC Championship Game, Manning was asked whether a medical exam on his surgically repaired neck following the season, which ESPN reported will determine whether he even plays in 2014, was weighing on his mind.
"It's really not," Manning said. "What's weighing on my mind is how soon I can get a Bud Light in my mouth. That's priority one."
Neither Manning nor the Broncos have any indication that Manning won't pass his medical exam in March — if anything were wrong, he wouldn't be playing right now.
And he is coming off the best statistical season of his brilliant career, one in which he threw for a record 55 touchdowns and 5,447 yards.
Rare role: It has been seven years since the Patriots were underdogs in a postseason game. So QB Tom Brady isn't wasting a chance to embrace that role.
For the first time in 12 postseason games, the Patriots are underdogs for Sunday's AFC title game at Denver.
The last time the Patriots weren't favored in the playoffs was in another conference title game against Manning when he was with Indianapolis in 2007. The Colts won 38-34 at home.
"I'm sure no one's going to pick us to win this week," Brady said during his weekly appearance on Boston's WEEI radio. "We've had our backs against the wall for a while. Really, the whole season we've lost players, and teams have really counted us out."
That may be an exaggeration. Teams don't take the Patriots lightly.
Still, Brady said, "We've got a bunch of underdogs on our team, and we'll be an underdog again."
Harbaughs' grandfather dies: Joe Cipiti, the grandfather of NFL coaching brothers Jim and John Harbaugh, died Sunday morning in Ohio. He was 98. Jim Harbaugh spoke fondly of his grandfather Monday as the coach begins San Francisco's preparation for Sunday's NFC Championship Game in Seattle.
Notable: Broncos CB Chris Harris is out for the playoffs after an MRI exam revealed a torn ACL in his left knee. … Colts coach Chuck Pagano said he and his staff were chosen to coach one of the teams in the Pro Bowl, Jan. 26 in Honolulu. The coaches are leaving for Hawaii next week.