Healthy Manning makes Broncos division favorites

On the relationship timeline for Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, this was a one-night stand. It was rather meaningless, the result was predictable, and the few hours of fun will be forgotten in a few days.

Brady and Manning obviously have a past. What their latest meeting showed is that Manning has a future.

Brady and the New England Patriots are a pretty good bet to return to the Super Bowl. Manning and the Denver Broncos are a better bet to win the AFC West.

Forget the neck surgeries and the tough schedule, because all of that is behind the Broncos now. Manning survived it in good shape, even with Denver dropping to 2-3 after a 31-21 loss at New England on Sunday.

“I don’t see anything wrong with Manning. He looks very good to me, and I think he’s only going to get better,” said Mike Colbert, vice president of Cantor Gaming sports books. “He’s not the reason they are losing games.

“The Broncos will beat the bad and mediocre teams. Against the top five or six teams, they are going to struggle. They are not on that top level yet. But I think Denver is going to be a dangerous team late in the season.”

Colbert said he expects the Broncos to win their division, which would be no great accomplishment considering the competition is only one team. Denver and San Diego are each plus-120 to win it, and their first meeting comes Oct. 15 on “Monday Night Football.”

The Broncos have been competitive in defeat against the NFL’s elite. The Chargers have taken out three of the league’s weakest teams, and they just found a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in New Orleans.

Manning hit 31 of 44 passes for 345 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions against the Patriots, a performance that was good enough to at least cover. But running back Willis McGahee’s fumble at the 11-yard line with 3:42 remaining doomed Denver’s comeback, and New England covered as a 6-point favorite.

At the same time across the country, San Francisco was putting a 45-3 beating on Buffalo. The Bills, getting 10 points, were the definition of a dead ‘dog.

“On a neutral field, if New England played San Francisco, I would make it a pick ’em,” Colbert said.

There are no story lines about sharps or squares from Week 5, and the books can’t claim a big win or a bloodbath. It was a routine theme, and that means there were some boring games, some exciting finishes and some bizarre point-spread decisions.

“It was a crazy day. The NFL is unpredictable. It’s not easy, that’s for sure,” Colbert said. “After the early games, it looked like it could turn out to be a good day for us. We gave most of it back in the late games. It’s about a break-even day or a very small winner.”

Underdogs covered four of six morning games, highlighted by Indianapolis’ 30-27 victory over Green Bay. The Colts, 6½-point ‘dogs and plus-250 on the money line, overcame a 21-3 halftime deficit to drop the disappointing Packers, who attracted about 75 percent of the straight-bet action.

“Green Bay was our single biggest game of the year,” Colbert said. “For five days, we took nonstop teasers with the Packers. Green Bay is in big trouble. I think Minnesota is going to shock some people and is live to win that division.”

Cleveland, an 8-point underdog at New York, jumped on the Giants 14-0 in the first five minutes. But then the Browns started to resemble the clowns they really are and got blown away, 41-27.

Pittsburgh, a 4-point favorite, gave up its 10-0 halftime lead and needed a late field goal to top Philadelphia, 16-14. Amazingly, the Eagles have had two games decided by one point and two games decided by two points.

Baltimore and Kansas City got together for a bad joke that could make soccer more popular. This is why we don’t listen when Joe Flacco says he’s an elite quarterback. He led the Ravens to a thrilling 9-6 win over the Chiefs, who would trade Matt Cassel back to Southern California for Matt Barkley today if the Trojans were gullible enough to do the deal.

In the afternoon, Buffalo, Carolina, Jacksonville and Tennessee staged a competition to see which team could be the worst.

The Jaguars were hammered 38-0 in the second half of a 41-3 loss to Chicago. The score went over the total of 39 when the Bears’ Armando Allen sprinted 46 yards for a touchdown with 1:49 remaining. The Bills-49ers massacre went over the total in similar bad-beat fashion.

Why did I follow some so-called sharp opinions and back the Titans? No clue. I felt like a fool. Minnesota never had to sweat covering 5½ and crushed the Titans, 30-7.

Appropriately, a bizarre Sunday concluded in New Orleans, where Drew Brees set a record and referees helped the Saints, 3½-point favorites, come from 10 down to drop the Chargers, 31-24. Admittedly, I got lucky on the Saints to make it a break-even day.

The Broncos are below .500, but compared to the Chargers, Manning’s future looks brighter.

Contact sports betting columnist Matt Youmans at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts “The Las Vegas Sportsline” weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM, 98.9 FM). Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.

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