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Broncos at Colts: Top Five Storylines


Peyton Manning's Return to Indianapolis**

This one might be the storyline of the year thus far in the NFL.

The league's only four-time MVP heads back to the city where he won all four of those awards and threw for more than 50,000 yards and 399 touchdowns in 14 years, before the Colts released him in 2012.

Quarterback Peyton Manning said it was hard to predict how he'd feel when he steps into Lucas Oil Stadium for the first time as visitor.

"Football certainly is an emotional game, but to predict how you will feel? I just don't know," Manning said.

"How I'll feel walking into the stadium? I can't tell you that right now. I'll probably know after the game, I probably may not tell you that after the game either," he laughed. "It's just too hard to predict."

There has been plenty of talk about Manning's return.

The week began with remarks made by Colts Owner Jim Irsay to the USA Today that drew a response from Head Coach John Fox.

Manning declined to comment and the Broncos aren’t buying into any bulletin-board material.

"I would say it can motivate teams but it probably motivates those teams that are not hungry or anything like that," cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. "We're a hungry team. So regardless of if he said anything or not, we're trying to continue on, stay undefeated and that's our goal."

Unfamiliar Opponent, Familiar Venue for Manning

Manning has played 230 career games, but zero of them have come against Indianapolis.

"It may sound strange, but it's an unfamiliar opponent," Manning said on a conference call with Indianapolis media.

While he's never lined up against the Colts in a game, he spent 14 years practicing against that defense.

However, as Manning pointed out during his weekly press conference, a lot of personnel and coaches have changed since he last donned a Colts jersey in 2010.

"Well, it's no question it's unique," Manning said. "As far as when you're in the meeting rooms, and you're watching film, you're certainly familiar with some of the guys, but not many of them. There are a lot of guys on that team that could care less about my time in Indianapolis. There's a lot of guys on this team that could care less about my time somewhere else. But when you see a Robert Mathis, or an Antoine Bethea – guys that you're close to, guys that you played in some huge games with – there really is a bond there. But when you're getting ready to play them, on film it's a challenge."

While the roster may have changed, not much is different at Lucas Oil Stadium, where Manning has a career 19-5 record.

"He won't be unfamiliar with the stadium," Fox said. "I can speak to that."

Miller's Return

After serving his six-game suspension to start the 2013 season, the runner up for the 2012 Defensive Player of the Year will return to the field Sunday.

Linebacker Von Miller ranked in the NFL's top 5 in sacks, quarterback knockdowns, quarterback hurries, tackle for a loss, run stuffs and forced fumbles last year.

And by all accounts, he used his time away from the football field to make sure he'd come back as an improved version of that 2012 player that set a franchise record with 18.5 sacks.

"Best shape of my life," Miller said. "I feel a lot stronger, quicker and faster."

He spent a good portion of his six-week suspension in the Broncos' weight room, working out with Strength and Conditioning Coach Luke Richesson and his assistants Jason George, Anthony Lomando and Mike Eubanks.

That work yielded a 15-pound muscle gain while Miller dropped his body-fat percentage.

"I feel stronger just all around -- mentally, physically, just all around," Miller said. "When you don't have to worry about everything, it's just football, it's a whole lot easier just studying and everything. I just feel good. It's like I've said before, I'm in a great place physically and mentally."

Luck a Threat In two years, Andrew Luck has thrown for 30 touchdowns while also running for seven.

His passer rating is up from 76.5 as a rookie to 89.6 through six weeks of the 2013 season.

"He's a good player," Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio said. "He's done some good things. He's not perfect - nobody is. He is a good football player. Kind of appreciate the way he conducts. I feel like he is a team guy that works hard and tries to be that good teammate. From a distance anyway that's something that you appreciate."

Luck has shown the ability to beat teams with his arm as well as his legs.

He ran a 4.67 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine – less than one-tenth of a second slower than Panthers quarterback Cam Newton ran the year before.

Luck has run for 154 yards on 24 attempts for a 6.4 yards-per-carry average that ranks third among quarterbacks with at least 20 carries. His two rushing touchdowns this year is tied for the lead among all quarterbacks.

"He can make all those throws as well," cornerback Champ Bailey said. "But I think what really makes him so dangerous is he when he pulls it down and can run for that first down and make guys miss here and there. He's pretty good about that too."

Protecting Peyton

Unlike the first 14 years of his career when he wore a non-contact jersey every time he lined up across from the Colts pass rush, Peyton Manning will be fair game for the Colts defense to go after.

"Somebody asked me earlier if 'Is this kind of like playing against (New York Giants QB) Eli (Manning)?,'" Manning recalled. "And I said, 'I know (linebacker) Robert Mathis hits harder than Eli. I guarantee you that.'"

Mathis is tied for the league lead with 9.5 sacks this year.

However, the Broncos offensive line has allowed the fewest sacks in the league this year. Manning has been sacked just five times and only twice in the last five games.

After right tackle Orlando Franklin left the Broncos' Week 6 game with an injury, the team shuffled its offensive line. Louis Vasquez moved from right guard to right tackle and Chris Kuper came in to play right guard.

"The group that we have out there and last week, we were trying to feel them out," Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase said. "Chris – it was the first time that he's had some action in a while – Louis has been working at that right tackle spot in practice so much I guess I didn't even think twice about that. I just wanted to make sure they were good and once we saw that were handling their own well we just moved on and called it the way we saw it."

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