- Associated Press - Saturday, December 20, 2014

CINCINNATI (AP) - After a couple of subpar games, Peyton Manning has a perfect chance to regain his touch and get ready for the playoffs.

And earn some time off, too.

It’s his pedigree. Whenever he plays Cincinnati, he becomes Perfect Peyton.

Manning takes an 8-0 mark against the Bengals into their Monday night game at Paul Brown Stadium, where he won as recently as two years ago. And it’s not just how often he’s won, but how he’s done it.

Manning has thrown 20 touchdown passes and only five interceptions against Cincinnati (9-4-1). He’s thrown at least three touchdown passes in five of the eight games. His career passer rating against the Bengals is 106.8.

Yep. He’s basically owned the Bengals. And a few other teams, too.

“He’s one of those guys that’s been around it his whole life and breathed it, ate it and slept it,” Bengals defensive end Wallace Gilberry said. “So you’re getting the best.”

The Broncos (11-3) have handled the Bengals regardless who was the quarterback, winning the past four in their series. And they’ll have them right where they want them this time: Playing in prime time.

Cincinnati has played its worst games under the brightest lights. They’ve lost in the first round of the playoffs each of the past three seasons. They’re 18-41 all-time in night games, including 10-20 on Monday night.

Two of the Bengals’ worst games this season have come in prime time, a 43-17 loss at New England on a Sunday night and a 24-3 loss at home to Cleveland on a Thursday night.

“It doesn’t matter what we’ve done in the past, it’s what we’re going to do on Monday night and that’s our focus,” said Andy Dalton, who is 2-6 in prime time games.

Some things to watch on Monday night:

PLAYOFF SEEDING: The Broncos have clinched the AFC West for the fourth straight season. A win on Monday would secure a first-round bye. They finish the regular season at home against Oakland. The Bengals would clinch a fourth straight playoff berth with a victory. They finish the season in Pittsburgh.

BRONCOS RUN IT: The Broncos have put more of an emphasis on their running game in the past few weeks, using C.J. Anderson and Juwan Thompson to take some of the load off Manning. Anderson had 709 yards from scrimmage in November, the most by any NFL player in the month. He ran for 167 and 168 yards in back-to-back games.

DENVER’S DENTED DEFENSE: The Broncos will be without top tackler Brandon Marshall, sidelined by a foot injury. Linebacker Danny Trevathan went on injured reserve with a knee injury, forcing the Broncos to rely on undrafted third-year pro Steven Johnson and newcomer Todd Davis, claimed off waivers from New Orleans a month ago.

“We’ve faced a lot of adversity,” nose tackle Terrance Knighton said. “We faced a lot of adversity last year and still made a Super Bowl. We have a lot of depth.”

GOOD ANDY/BAD ANDY: How will Dalton handle the spotlight? During the Thursday night loss to Cleveland, he completed only 10 passes, threw three interceptions and finished with a career-low passer rating of 2.0. He’s played poorly in all three playoff games as well, turning the ball over with interceptions and fumbles. How well he handles the pressure will be one of the determining factors.

HAND IT TO HILL: The Bengals would love to let rookie Jeremy Hill take the lead and take the pressure off Dalton. He ran for 148 yards in a 30-0 win at Cleveland last week, making him the first rookie since Tampa Bay’s Cadillac Williams in 2005 to have three games of rushing for more than 140 yards. Hill leads all NFL rookies with 877 yards rushing and is tied for the lead with eight touchdowns.

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AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton in Denver contributed to this report.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL


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