- Associated Press - Thursday, October 17, 2013

ENGLEWOOD, COLO. (AP) - No disrespect to the receivers he had with the Colts, but Peyton Manning never had such a group as he has in Denver.

Even Tony Dungy marvels over this new collection of pass-catchers that Manning brings to Indianapolis for the biggest homecoming since Brett Favre donned purple to so much chagrin at Lambeau Field in 2009.

Andrew Luck doesn’t have quite the same cast in Indy that Manning enjoyed there or the one he’s doing great things with in Denver, but he does have Reggie Wayne still burnishing his Hall of Fame credentials.

Manning’s best year in Indianapolis was 2004, when his trio of 1,000-yard receivers _ Wayne, Marvin Harrison and Brandon Stokley _ combined for 231 catches, 3,400 yards and 37 touchdowns.

Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker and Julius Thomas are on pace to become the NFL’s first foursome of 1,000-yard receivers. This “Fantastic Four” is on pace for an eye-popping 361 receptions, 4,704 yards and 51 TDs.

Manning is loath to compare teams, offenses, seasons. The only thing he’ll say is he’s still getting used to his new options, not to mention his shuffled offensive line.

He knows this, though: defenses can double-cover three terrific receivers, but not four. And he won’t force the issue; he doesn’t have to.

“I don’t think Peyton Manning falls in love with anybody,” NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth said. “I think he falls in love with the single coverage. And when you’ve got four guys that can win on a consistent basis he’s just going to find the single coverage and let them win.”

With so many options flooding the field, Manning is getting passes off quickly. He’s only been sacked twice since the opener.

Welker is on pace for 21 touchdowns. The most he ever caught from Tom Brady was nine.

“Last year I thought the Denver Broncos were kind of Demaryius Thomas or Eric Decker or bust,” Collinsworth said. “So much of their stuff was to the outside guys. And now they’ve got the inside threat, Welker. Obviously, he’s as good as there is.”

Dungy, Manning’s former coach, argues the bigger arrival has been that of Julius Thomas, the athletic tight end who spent his first two seasons trying to get healthy and catching just one pass.

“I think he’s really the difference-maker,” Dungy said. “And I think this is what made this offense really take a next step to that next level because he is so big and now he’s playing with so much confidence.”

Julius Thomas‘ seven TD grabs rank second in the NFL behind Welker’s eight.

“And then you can’t forget Knowshon Moreno,” Dungy added.

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