Peyton Manning isn't one to look back — or even up at the scoreboard.

The Broncos can clinch the top seed in the AFC playoffs with a win over Kansas City and a Houston loss at Indianapolis on Sunday. While many Denver fans will be cheering on the Colts, Manning won't be paying any attention.

"I don't think anybody's going to tell ME during the game," Manning said.

The Colts have been the feel-good story of the year with assistant coach Bruce Arians and Manning's successor, rookie Andrew Luck, leading them to nine straight wins while new coach Chuck Pagano was sidelined by chemotherapy treatments to fight leukemia. Pagano returned to the team this week.

Manning spent his first 14 seasons in Indianapolis, a city he put back on the NFL map, and he still has plenty of friends on the Colts and many ties to the community. But when asked if he was happy for the Colts' success or was even paying attention to their surprising season, Manning demurred.

"I mean, I've just had so much on my plate here. And it's been quite a challenge here handling everything going on in Denver. So, that's really kind of what I've focused on all season long," Manning said. "But, hey, to make the playoffs in the NFL, you've got to have a great year. So, any team that's in, that says a lot, especially in the AFC, because I think it's as competitive as it ever has been."


BEST SEAT IN THE HOUSE: Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen has enjoyed an up-close-and-personal view of history being made this season. Vikings defenders typically have a quick meeting with their coaches after a series on game days, but Allen likes to keep that as short as possible so he can get back up near the field to watch Adrian Peterson go to work.

"I've got a front row seat," Allen said. "I have to take advantage of it."

Peterson enters the finale 102 yards rushing from 2,000 for this season and 208 from breaking Eric Dickerson's single-season record.

"Adrian's a great teammate and that's what makes it more fun for us," Allen said. "You're watching your friend do something out there. He's just battling. He just wants to win. Obviously he wants that record. I think you see his determination, his motivation. You see everything he's worked for culminate this year, and it drives you to do the same thing. ...

"He's doing remarkable things. It's just fun to watch it and be on the team with a legend in the making."


TOLD YOU SO: The Bengals acknowledged a mistake by bringing back safety Chris Crocker three games into the season. The move has made a big impact on the defense and given the 10th-year safety a lot of satisfaction.

"Yeah, it is sweet vindication," Crocker said this week.

Crocker was a mainstay on the defense in Cincinnati from 2008-11, helping the Bengals get to the playoffs twice. They released him after last season, when he started all 16 games and a playoff loss to Houston even though he was limited by injuries. The Bengals thought he was finished.

After the defense got shredded in the first three games this season without Crocker, ranking 29th in the league in yards allowed, the Bengals brought him back. Crocker has started at strong safety for the last eight games and made three interceptions, tied for the team lead.

With Crocker settling down the secondary, the Bengals have moved up to No. 6 in defense heading into the final regular-season game against Baltimore. His steady play has made his point about last season.

"They don't really see and don't really understand that you can't play at a high level or high efficiency for 16 weeks playing hurt," Crocker said. "I know my body, I know myself, I know when I'm done. I knew I wasn't done. So it feels good just to kind of go through where I'd been to where I am now."


ROMO'S RUN AT 5K: Dallas quarterback Tony Romo needs 315 yards passing Sunday at Washington for his first 5,000-yard season. Sitting at 4,685 yards, Romo has already broken his own franchise record of 4,483 and now has the top four passing seasons in Cowboys history.

Two months ago, Romo was the NFL leader with 13 interceptions. He has just three since — and 17 touchdowns.

"I'd say I've improved," Romo said. "You're always improving."

He's been busy, too. Twice he's set the franchise record for passing attempts in a game: 62 against the New York Giants and Washington. He's broken his franchise record for attempts in a season, and could end up 100 throws clear of the 2009 mark of 550.

"I think more than anything I'm a completely different player than I was four, three, two years ago," Romo said. "Just overall skill. Being able to put the ball where I want to compared to then, and understanding of the game."

There have been five 5,000-yard passing seasons, two by Drew Brees. The New Orleans quarterback could do it again. He's at 4,781 yards. Detroit's Matthew Stafford, who threw for 5,038 yards last season, is 10 yards ahead of Romo.


LOOKING AHEAD: The Titans (5-10) are trying to make the best of the injuries that have led to 12 offensive linemen playing this season by giving Byron Stingily a second straight start at right tackle.

Tennessee drafted the 6-foot-5, 313-pound Stingily out of Louisville in the sixth round in 2011. He didn't play at all as a rookie, but will wrap up his second season appearing in five games with two starts.

Titans coach Mike Munchak says the decision isn't a reflection on backup Mike Otto, who started two games after David Stewart broke his right leg Dec. 2.

"Where we're at as a team, it's a good chance to see what you have at tackle," Munchak said. "They're going to have to compete again next year for that swing spot. We know what Mike can do. Mike has played enough games for us that we know what he can do. Him playing one more games is not going to change our opinion of him one way or the other. This gives us a chance really to see where Byron is because otherwise, the only competing they do is in preseason games, which is hard to evaluate sometimes, or in training camp. This gives us a chance to see how the guy did in live work."

Stingily will get to work against Jaguars defensive end Jason Babin, who the Titans know well from when he got 12 ½ sacks for Tennessee in 2010. Stingily, a converted lineman who played defensive end in high school, used pilates during the offseason to improve his flexibility. Munchak said they knew Stingily had plenty of room to develop and credits offensive line coach Bruce Matthews with helping the lineman grow.

Now they want to see if Stingily can put together consecutive games.

"That will mean a lot for him and for us going into the offseason," Munchak said.


AP Pro Football Writers Barry Wilner and Arnie Stapleton, and Sports Writers Schuyler Dixon, Joe Kay, Jon Krawczynski and Teresa M. Walker contributed to this story.


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