Denver quarterback Peyton Manning (18) gets a high five from center Dan Koppen after a Manning touchdown pass against the Cleveland Browns in the first quarter last Sunday in Denver.
The difference Peyton Manning has made in Denver actually is measurable.
Try from 8-8, which the Broncos were a year ago in winning the AFC West, to 12-3. Try losing their final three games of 2011 and sneaking into the back door of the playoffs to winning their last 11 and moving into the postseason as the NFL’s best team.
Those are the numbers, along with Denver (No. 1 in the AP Pro32) being a 16-point favorite over Kansas City (No. 32, AP Pro32), which is 2-13.
What Manning has brought to the Broncos in swagger, confidence and performance that has been impressive even by the four-time league MVP’s standards.
Don’t look for any temporary respite in any of those areas against the weak Chiefs.
“We talk about that a lot, not coasting, pedal downhill,” coach John Fox said. “I appreciate him. I think that’s a big reason why he’s accomplished what he’s accomplished, whether it’s here or in Indianapolis. He’s a tremendous competitor, doesn’t let up. I think that’s how you need to be to be successful.”
Few teams have been more successful this season than the Broncos. Kansas City has no chance Sunday.
No. 20 Carolina (plus 4)
at No. 16 New Orleans
After this, Saints will be unburdened from bounties that damaged season.
BEST BET: SAINTS, 40-27
No. 31 Jacksonville (plus 5½)
at No. 26 Tennessee
As bad as Jaguars might be, Titans look worse right now.
UPSET SPECIAL: JAGUARS, 17-13
No. 14 Dallas (plus 3½)
at No. 9 Washington
NBC and NFL get their wish: tight game between archrivals to win division.
No. 7 Houston (minus 6½)
at No. 10 Indianapolis
Texans never have won at Indy. They won’t start now.
No. 19 Miami (plus 11)
at No. 4 New England
Patriots playing for a bye, just might get it.
No. 3 Green Bay (minus 3)
at No. 12 Minnesota
Shouldn’t be playing hunches so late in season. But ...
No. 27 Arizona (plus 15)
at No. 6 San Francisco
Minnesota’s win gives 49ers shot at a bye.
No. 18 St. Louis (plus 10)
at No. 5 Seattle
Our ears still are ringing from the noise level at CenturyLink.
No. 8 Baltimore (plus 3)
at No. 11 Cincinnati
These teams could meet in wild-card round next week.
No. 29 Philadelphia (plus 9½)
at No. 15 New York Giants
Big last stand for Michael Vick and Andy Reid? Nah.
No. 13 Chicago (minus 3)
at No. 28 Detroit
Reeling Bears still have playoff shot. Lions have packed it in.
No. 24 New York Jets (plus
3) at No. 25 Buffalo
Go with the losing team with less turmoil.
No. 23 Cleveland (OFF)
at No. 17 Pittsburgh
Strange not seeing Steelers in contention. Not strange with Browns.
No. 22 Tampa Bay (OFF)
at No. 2 Atlanta
Falcons won’t have meaningful game for two more weeks.
No. 30 Oakland (OFF)
at No. 21 San Diego
Norv Turner could be leaving with a two-game winning streak.
Against spread: 12-4 (105-118-7). Straight up: 13-3 (147-88-1)
Best Bet: 7-7-2 against spread, 11-5 straight up.
Upset special: 11-5 against spread, 9-7 straight up.
Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP—NFL
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