With Manning at QB, this is a game Broncos should win

These are the games Peyton Manning-led teams are supposed to win.

Teams led by Peyton Manning — and he certainly has shown he is the old Peyton, not an old Peyton — win 10 games or more every season.

Teams led by Peyton Manning have been favored to win the vast majority of the time since 2000, his second year with the Indianapolis Colts. And they have done just that.

Today’s game at Cincinnati against the Bengals, a playoff team last season and certainly no patsy despite a 3-4 record, is one of those games that needs to be neatly stacked in the W column on the way to 10 or more wins and the playoffs.

This is why John Elway went out and spent a potential $96 million over five years on a 36-year-old with a bad neck.

These are games Champ Bailey has been hoping to play for the past several years, games in the middle of the season that mean something, an opportunity to stretch a lead in the AFC West, an opportunity to legitimately be able to compete for the highest honor in professional football, and that is certainly not another Pro Bowl berth, of which he already has 11.

This is why John Elway’s first matter of business with the Broncos when he took over the duties of building and overseeing the team was to re-sign the 34-year-old (238 years old in cornerback years) for roughly $45 million over a four-year period.

The Broncos will be going up today against a Bengals team whose best player is a young wide receiver named A.J. Green.  Green is big, fast and explosive.

This is why you still have Champ Bailey, the 48th-rated NFL player ever, according to the NFL Network’s rankings, to slow the other team’s most explosive star.

Yes, the Broncos, 4-3 and already in control of their own destiny in the AFC West, are playing a game today they are supposed to win and should win because of Manning and Bailey & Friends.

In the past, they have stumbled late in the season because their depth was lacking and their talent level was simply not where it needed to be.

Those days are dead.

Champ has been in Denver for nine seasons, out there on his own little island on defense, doing his level best to keep the Broncos in the game.

But Champ never had the support he has now, a group of young, quick defenders in the secondary that is starting to get it, a defensive front that is consistently applying pressure on passers and running backs, a defensive coordinator in Jack Del Rio who obviously knows what he and head coach John Fox want, and, oh yes, Manning on the other side to keep the defense off the field and actually score points on a regular basis.

Yes, these are good times to be a Bronco or a Bronco fan.

And today’s game will be the first of many through the rest of this season that the team is supposed to win — and will win.

Denver has the edge in virtually every statistical category compared to the Bengals.

The Bronco passing game is better (292 yards per game to 257), rushing game better (112 to 96), and their defense is better against the pass and the run (319 total yards per game to 357).

The Broncos are also on the upswing, having won three of four, while the Bengals are struggling, having lost three in a row.

Cincinnati’s offense has been a two-man show predicated on second-year QB Andy Dalton throwing to Green, who has caught 44 passes for 636 yards. The next-best Cincy receiver has been wideout Andrew Hawkins, who has only 27 catches for 346 yards.

Dalton also has been prone to interceptions this year, having thrown at least one in every game and having thrown six in his past three games.

The Bengals’ running game used to be a worry behind Cedric Benson, but he departed via free agency, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis, he of many names, has averaged only 3.4 yards per carry as his replacement.

It would appear to be a cakewalk for the Broncos, but the Bengals are coming off a bye week and have had time to practice for Manning and his crew.

It won’t help much. Manning, who became the first NFL quarterback ever to throw for 300 yards, three TDs and complete 70 percent of his passes in four straight games with last week’s effort against New Orleans, has never lost to the Bengals in seven games.

That mark will stay intact.

I’ll take my 5-2 record picking with or against Denver and say the Broncos win this one in relatively conservative, low-scoring fashion, 27-21.

Rick Jussel is a former Daily Sentinel sports editor (think Dark Ages) and Grand Junction High School journalism teacher who belongs in the Armchair Quarterback Hall of Fame, if only there was one.


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