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The Broncos are sticking with Peyton Manning at quarterback: Horse Tracks

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Peyton Manning struggling has Broncos Country abuzz; notes from the Bills game; an early look at the Chargers.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Just about every Broncos Sunday, a few minutes before kickoff, Denver Post columnist Ben Hochman chimes in with this little diddy.

No, seriously. Pretty much every week.

It's funny stuff, and like many good jokes, the fact that it gets old just makes it funnier.

But who would have thought that next week, when Hochman presumably tweets out the Broncos' starting quarterback decision, that the tweet would actually be meaningful?

That's the world in which we live in Week 15 of the 2014 NFL season, where despite leading the league in passing touchdowns and ranking 4th in passing yards and 3rd in passer rating, Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning is under fire. A five-game stretch that hasn't impressed all that much, combined with his worst-ever game statistically as a Bronco, have some fans wondering if Manning's age is catching up with him, if Manning is out of rhythm, or even if Manning is hurt (which is purely speculative).

Broncos coach John Fox did his best to silence those cries Monday.

"There's no quarterback I'd rather have than Peyton Manning," said Fox. "It just so happens that we have leaned a little more on run. Our passing game is fine. You never know, we might put our foot on the gas and throw it 50 times."

"You never know, we might put our foot on the gas and throw it 50 times." -John Fox

Fans yearning for "Star Wars" numbers will be pleased to hear the possibility of a pass-heavy offense remains, but fans of Super Bowl championships may beg to differ. Broncos fans know Denver didn't win its first Super Bowl on the arm of John Elway - they won it riding the legs of Terrell Davis. While an argument can be made that the NFL has evolved into a passing league, a quick temperature-reading of recent Super Bowl winners confirms that defenses and running games continue to play just as big of roles as passing prowess in the playoffs.

That's the good news as the Broncos enter the playoffs: the Broncos have a lot of positives to take from those other elements of their football team of late, and they remain insistent that the air attack will find its wind. Meanwhile, they're winning while they find a running game, hoping it will lead to offensive balance.

"I've broken a lot of records and set a lot of records due to playing for a long time and playing well at times, but it's never been something that I've been about," said Manning. "So I don't need to break or set another record."

Broncos vs. Bills

By becoming grinders, Broncos now a 'complete team'
The Broncos' 24-17 win over Buffalo was not always elegant, but what it lacked in style, it made up for in power and persistence.

Next Day Notebook: Little things add up in win over Bills
The stat sheet didn't tell the entire story of the Broncos' win over Buffalo, but it was the little things that impacted the game, especially in the field position battle. Then individually, David Bruton Jr. had an exceptional game on defense and Emmanuel Sanders continued to show his toughness.

Running game stays strong behind offensive line push
The Broncos running game had a tough task against the Bills front line, but came out on top in a difficult matchup.

Mike Tanier's Monday Morning Hangover: Teams Need More Than Playoff Miracles | Bleacher Report
Everyone pitched in for the Broncos. The defense produced four sacks and two interceptions. Backup running back Juwan Thompson contributed a 47-yard run. Special-teamer Lerentee McCray got a piece of a punt, setting up a short field for his struggling offense. Connor Barth hit a 50-yard field goal to give Denver a 24-3 lead and the chance to play prevent for the entire fourth quarter.

Broncos at Chargers

Briefs: Julius Thomas says he's ready to return Sunday - The Denver Post
"I'm looking forward to this week," he said.

Julius Thomas says he's ready to return Sunday

Hochman: Broncos gear up for Chargers' Philip Rivers in playoff push - The Denver Post
This guy, again. He's always in the way. The Thursday night game last year. The Thursday night game this year. The playoffs last year. And now, a playoff-defining game this year. "It's the AFC West championship to us, and it's right here," Broncos cornerback Chris Harris said.

Broncos aiming for "4-of-4" in AFC West Division titles - The Denver Post
"It would be a great accomplishment," Moore said. "But we've got to get ready for San Diego. The Chargers almost won the division from us last year. If you're not ready, the Chargers can embarrass you."

Which FA Punter Should the Chargers Sign? - Bolts From The Blue
With an all-pro punter rendered inoperable for the rest of the season, the Bolts may want to get another punter to handle this (typically) thankless chore. Is there anybody out there that can and will handle the short - term gig?

Horse Tracks

Burse signed to practice squad
The Broncos have signed wide receiver Isaiah Burse to the practice squad.

Broncos to wait and see before decision on Danny Trevathan - ESPN
Both Denver Broncos head coach John Fox and linebacker Danny Trevathan characterized themselves Monday as in a wait-and-see mode about Trevathan's return to the lineup.

Isaiah Burse signed to practice squad; Broncos in wait-and-see mode on Danny Trevathan

C.J. Anderson Blossoming into One of NFL's Best Running Backs | Bleacher Report
Over the past five weeks, few backs have been as impressive as Anderson.

Denver Broncos' run game powered by youth movement - ESPN
The Denver Broncos have been forced to go deep at running back, but they keep turning up more than capable talents such as C.J. Anderson.

Broncos' defense gets mind-set to attack watching "wild" films - The Denver Post
Motivation comes in all shapes, sizes and species. The Broncos' defense rallies around video clips, inspired to play aggressively even after the results eluded them earlier in the season. "It's constantly in the back of our mind," defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said. "When we are on the field, guys are reiterating it on the sideline. Those videos grab our attention."

Monday Night Football schedule: Packers outduel Falcons for 43-37 win - SBNation.com
The Falcons' offense was impressive, but couldn't keep pace with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers with Green Bay walking away with a 43-37 victory on Monday night.

Good luck keeping up with the Seahawks - SBNation.com
"Our defense took it upon themselves to say they would dictate the tempo of this game and that our no-huddle attack on defense would win," Seahawks' coach Pete Carroll said later. "We've captured something here in recent weeks. We've got to keep it." That would be the defense playing fast. And then faster.

49ers fans are burning Colin Kaepernick jerseys - SBNation.com
Rough times in San Francisco.

Houston Texans' J.J. Watt makes case to be NFL MVP; Week 14 review | The MMQB with Peter King
That was a tough win, 24-17 over Buffalo. When Peyton Manning goes touchdownless, with two interceptions, you know you’ve played a tough defense. But you also know the offense isn’t clicking the way it should. The Broncos really need Julius Thomas (ankle) back.

NFL hot reads: End could be just a loss away for 49ers
The Patriots and Broncos remain the class of the conference and on a collision course for another title game rematch. They'd get the first-round byes if the playoffs began now (along with the Cardinals and the Packers in the NFC) and each play a divisional playoff game at home, where neither has lost. The location of the AFC title game depends on the next three weeks, and the Broncos appear to have the tougher road: At San Diego and at Cincinnati, then back home against the Raiders. The Patriots host the Dolphins and Bills with a road game against the Jets in between.

Anthero Nicolau, long-time football coach, dies at 81 - ESPN
Anthero Nick Nicolau, who coached in four Super Bowls during a 40-year football coaching career, died Saturday. He was 81.