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Peyton Manning makes his much-anticipated return to Indianapolis, bringing the undefeated Denver Broncos into town for a prime-time matchup with Andrew Luck and the Colts on Sunday night. The plot was juicy enough: Manning against Luck, the No. 1 overall in 2012 and the reason the Colts decided to jettison the league's only four-time MVP. Indianapolis owner Jim Irsay fanned the flames with his comments that Manning's postseason failures were a reason for his departure.
Although Irsay backtracked from his initial comments, his remarks were criticized by Broncos coach John Fox - "I thought it was a bit of a cheap shot," he said - and former Colts general manager Bill Polian. Manning declined to comment, but his play on the field has Indianapolis bracing for much more than a war of words. Denver is seeking its 18th consecutive regular-season win behind an offense that has produced 265 points - the most in history by any team through the first six games of the season.
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC. LINE: Broncos -6.5. O/U: 55.5.
ABOUT THE BRONCOS (6-0): Manning, who played 14 seasons with the Colts and led the franchise to two Super Bowls (winning one), tops the league with 2,179 yards and 22 touchdowns - the most by any player in the opening six games. He has weapons all over in the field in star wideouts Wes Welker (eight touchdowns), Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, not to mention tight end Julius Thomas (seven TDs) and running back Knowshon Moreno, who ran for three scores last week. Denver's biggest weakness has been its pass defense, but that should receive a boost with the return of linebacker Von Miller (18.5 sacks in 2012) from a six-game suspension.
ABOUT THE COLTS (4-2): Luck and AFC South-leading Indianapolis are coming off their worst performance, managing only three field goals in a 19-9 loss at San Diego as the Chargers held the ball for over 38 minutes. Luck is 15-7 as a starter and has directed nine comebacks in the fourth quarter and overtime, the most by any player in his first 22 games. Running back Trent Richardson has yet to provide the expected impact on the ground game since his acquisition from Cleveland, rushing for only 191 yards in four games, which has put an added burden on a defense that is allowing an average of 16.3 points, fifth in the league.
1. Manning is completing 74.2 percent of his passes and his passer rating of 128.8 is miles ahead of runner-up Philip Rivers (108.7) of San Diego.
2. Luck is 9-2 at home and 6-0 overall following a loss.
3. The Colts beat the Broncos five straight times with Manning under center, with the averaging victory margin being 14.4 points.
PREDICTION: Broncos 41, Colts 27