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Peyton Manning set to return to game action

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Peyton Manning set to return to game action

From Comcast SportsNet

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) -- Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos are treating their visit to Chicago on Thursday night just like any other preseason opener.

Only, it isn't.

This marks the four-time MVP's first game of any sort since Jan. 30, 2011, when he went 2-for-5 for 12 yards and an interception in the AFC's 55-41 loss to the NFC in the Pro Bowl.

"I think he's anxious to get in there, just like all of our starters," coach John Fox said Tuesday.

Anybody who wants to see Manning's first game in 18 months had better tune in early because he won't have much more than a cameo appearance at Soldier Field.

"Well, we don't get into how much we're going to do but we'll approach it much like any first preseason games," Fox said. "Our first unit will go the first quarter -- about -- and the seconds will go the second and third quarters, and the third will finish out the fourth quarter."

That's fine with Manning.

"We'd like to get a drive or two going," Manning said. "I've always said you love to get a bit of everything in the preseason if you can. You love to get some short-yardage work, some third-down conversions, you'd love to get some red zone, goal line. In all four games, if you can get all the situations that we work on out here, that would be ideal.

"So, however long we play, or whatever Coach Fox wants to do, we're good with. We just need to play well when we're out there."

Manning missed all of last season with a nerve injury in his neck that weakened his throwing arm and led to his tearful release from the Indianapolis Colts that set off the biggest free agent frenzy in NFL history. He landed in Denver and hasn't looked back.

Throughout offseason workouts, minicamp and training camp with the Broncos (No. 10 in the AP Pro32), Manning has had plenty of zip on his passes and he's been as accurate and cerebral as ever.

Even Tuesday, when he had his share of incompletions against an ever-improving, first-string defense, Manning was sharp in his decisions.

"I wouldn't say that," Manning retorted when asked if it was a frustrating day at practice. "Every day, you're trying to get better. Certainly, there's always some things you can improve on."

Although his fused neck is actually stronger than it was pre-surgery, the next big mile marker in Manning's comeback is bouncing back from that first big hit.

Manning said he has no doubt he is ready to absorb it, although the Broncos aren't exactly eager to get that blast behind them.

"Well, you never want to see your guy the one being hit regardless of position," Fox said. "But it's all part of the game. I think he's definitely preparing himself, and we'll see how it goes Thursday night."

Manning has spent the last five months learning his new teammates and working on timing with his new targets, but he is eager to see who steps up in the preseason.

"The lights have not been on yet," Manning said. "We've had practices, we had the scrimmage Saturday, which was a game-like atmosphere, but going against a different opponent on Thursday" will provide a better gauge.

"So it's serious business out there on Thursday. There's jobs being competed for, there's jobs that people are trying to keep. That's where all of us have something to play for," he added. "Sure, you want to win the game, but everybody's competing, trying to do their jobs well."

Notes: DT Ty Warren didn't finish practice because of a stomach problem. ... Several of DT Ben Garland's defensive teammates gave him two replacement silver sabers he received upon graduating from the Air Force Academy, along with a Falcons football helmet. The originals were lost in the wildfire that destroyed his grandparents' home in Colorado Springs this summer. ... RB Knowshon Moreno made a big blunder when he ran out of bounds during a two-minute drill in which Denver's offense was trying to protect a late lead. "That's why you practice it," Fox said. "I'd rather that happen now in a practice situation vs. in a game when it counts." ... With Manning the marquee attraction, the Broncos have drawn 74,209 fans to camp. With five public practices remaining, they could double their old record of 45,124 set last year.

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2017 NFL Power Rankings: Both conferences are wide open through six weeks

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USA TODAY Sports

2017 NFL Power Rankings: Both conferences are wide open through six weeks

Through six weeks of the NFL season, it's clear who the Super Bowl favorites are.

In the AFC, it's, um, well, OK, let's do the NFC first. In the NFC, you have to watch out for — actually, nevermind, this isn't that easy.

CLICK HERE FOR NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON'S UPDATED NFL POWER RANKINGS

The Chiefs and Eagles are the only two teams standing at 5-1, but there are quite a few 4-2 squads right behind them, as well as talented 3-win teams who can take any opponent down if they bring their best stuff. That means that as the halfway point approaches, both conferences are still open races.

And those races got a lot more interesting after a fun Week 6. The power rankings look a lot different than they did before the weekend because of Week 6's results, too.

So, click the link above or below to see who's moving up and who's sliding back. Or, in the case of the Browns, who's sliding but staying in the same spot simply because they can't be dropped any further.

CLICK HERE FOR NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON'S UPDATED NFL POWER RANKINGS

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Bradley Beal loves Sixers' Joel Embiid's trash-talking, just don't try it on the Wizards

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USA Today Sports Images

Bradley Beal loves Sixers' Joel Embiid's trash-talking, just don't try it on the Wizards

There may not be another athlete, regardless of sport, that is as good at social media as Sixers center Joel Embiid. It's partly why he has become so popular among fans and media despite only having 31 NBA games under his belt.

It has apparently even earned him a nickname as the 'Social Media King.' 

Everyone seems to be laughing, expect Heat center Hassan Whiteside perhaps. Embiid and Whiteside have been in an on-court and off-court beef for a while now. Last year Embiid called Whiteside "BBQ chicken" after one matchup, suggesting he 'cooked' him. Whiteside also made headlines for suggesting Embiid's social media prowess earned him All-Star votes.

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After a matchup between the two this preseason, Whiteside tweeted his team's record against Embiid's Sixers. So, Embiid fired back with a series of tweets, some of which were hilarious:

The Wizards host the Sixers for the regular season opener on Wednesday and, with Embiid's social media antics in the news, Bradley Beal was asked for his opinion after Monday's practice. He's amused.

"Jo-Jo is my boy. I like Jo-Jo. We have the same trainer and work out in the summers. That was crazy. That was really crazy. He was letting his feelings be known," Beal said. 

"But I like it, it keeps guys competitive. Same with Whiteside. I think that's what we need a little bit. I don't think there is necessarily going to be any fighting or any hands thrown or anything like that. It's a competition thing. Who is the better big and who is going to prove it?"

Beal enjoys Embiid's trash-talking from afar and considers him a friend. Just don't bring that stuff to D.C.

"When he plays us, we're going to try to shut him down as best as we can. We aren't trying to hear none of that talking and I'm gonna let him know about it, too," he said.

Markieff Morris may be out, but the Wizards have plenty of players who won't back down to trash-talking, Beal included.

[RELATED: HOW WILL WIZARDS GUARD BEN SIMMONS?]