- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 13, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Peyton Manning is ready for a fresh start Sunday.

He’s already faced two division foes who know how to beat the Colts and two opponents, Denver and Kansas City, who relied on an old Patriots’ defensive strategy to keep Manning in check.

On Sunday, the four-time league MVP may finally get a breather from all those familiar looks when the Colts visit Washington.

“I’ve always said it’s an equal thing. We really don’t know much about some of these players,” Manning said Wednesday.

Equal?

Since 2003, Indy is 76-25 against the AFC and 25-6 against the NFC, including postseason games.

The numbers don’t lie.

Manning’s winning percentage is 54 points higher against opponents he normally faces every four years with the obvious implication being opponents less familiar with Manning’s style struggle to defend him.

“You can see that he understands defenses as well as anybody that’s probably ever been in the game, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a quarterback with more control over an offense as Peyton,” said Washington coach Mike Shanahan, who faced Manning as Broncos coach and generally fared poorly. “If you’re going to beat him, you’re going to almost have to play a perfect game.”

But this season has been far from perfect in Indy.

Yes, Manning’s personal numbers have been spectacular. After five weeks, he’s on pace for a career-high in yards, to produce his highest touchdown total since his record-breaking 2004 season and a career-low in interceptions.

Still, the Colts have not been themselves.

At 3-2, this is Indy’s second-worst start since 2002. It is 0-2 in the AFC South for the first time, and the Colts are coming off a victory in which they settled for four field goals before ending a 56-minute touchdown drought.

Players and coaches insist nothing’s terribly wrong.

It’s just that they’ve been up against a string of opponents who know how to defend the Colts.

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