Denver Broncos at Cincinnati Bengals (4, 48)
It took him some time to shake off the rust of a year-long layoff, but Peyton Manning is officially back. The NFL’s only four-time MVP has the AFC West-leading Denver Broncos rolling and he’ll try to keep it going on the road against the Cincinnati Bengals, who return from their bye week looking to end a three-game skid. Despite banging his thumb on a helmet early, Manning was 22-of-30 for 305 yards and three touchdowns in a dominating 34-14 victory over the New Orleans.
Manning has passed for over 300 yards in a franchise-record five straight games. He’s also the first player to record four straight games of 300-plus yards and three touchdowns with a completion percentage over 70 percent. The Bengals have had a week to devise ways to slow down Manning, who went 7-0 with 17 touchdowns and three interceptions against Cincinnati with the Colts. Denver has won three straight and 12 of the last 14 meetings. Willis McGahee ran for 101 yards and a score in last season’s 24-22 victory in Denver.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, CBS.
LINE: Broncos -4, O/U 48.
WEATHER: Forecasts are calling for temperatures in the mid-40s under partly cloudy skies. Winds will blow out of the north at 6 mph.
ABOUT THE BRONCOS (4-3): Manning has quieted some of his early-season critics by throwing for 12 touchdowns and just one interception over the last four games. He orchestrated an offense that amassed 300 yards passing and 200 yards rushing for the first time in six years against New Orleans. The team got a brief scare when Manning smacked his thumb on a defender’s helmet in the second quarter (he didn't miss a play). Willis McGahee had 122 of the Broncos’ season-best 225 rushing yards and the 31-year-old is proving he still has plenty in the tank (he’s 10th in the league with 554 yards). Denver’s defense, ranked 14th in scoring (21.7) after holding New Orleans in check, will be without CB Tracy Porter. Porter, who has missed the last two games while dealing with side effects from seizures, has resumed practicing but didn't travel with the team to Cincinnati.
ABOUT THE BENGALS (3-4): While Manning’s resurgence has sparked the Broncos, the Bengals have hit a lull after a hot start due to the struggles of second-year quarterback Andy Dalton. “The Red Rifle” has thrown six interceptions during the losing streak and was held to 105 yards in a 24-17 loss to Pittsburgh prior to the bye week – his lowest total since his pro debut. The Bengals rely heavily on Dalton and second-year wideout A.J. Green, who has scored in six straight games and is tied for the league lead in touchdowns (7), because the rushing attack has been non-existent. Cincinnati is 23rd in rushing (96.6) with BenJarvus Green-Ellis averaging a mere 3.4 yards per carry.
* Road team is 4-1 ATS in their last five meetings.
* Underdog is 4-0 ATS in their last four meetings.
* Over is 5-1 in Broncos’ last six road games.
* Bengals are 0-3-1 ATS in their last four home games.
1. Denver has outscored opponents 69-14 over the last six quarters, starting with the magical Monday night comeback against San Diego on Oct. 15.
2. Cincinnati, ranked 16th against the pass (233.1), has allowed just one 300-yard game this season when Cleveland's Brandon Weeden threw for 322 yards in Week 2.
3. Normally reserved Bengals coach Marvin Lewis challenged Dalton to be more of a leader, saying he needed him to “grab this football team by the back of its neck and (say) 'Let's go. Let's move forward.' "