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CINCINNATI (AP) — When Andy Dalton is on the sideline Monday night, he'll make sure to steal a few glances at the field to check out his counterpart.
Who doesn't want to watch Peyton Manning do his thing in prime time?
"Yeah, growing up I was watching Peyton play, so it's fun to be able to go up against these guys," Dalton said. "You definitely want to watch what they're doing, see how they play, because he's a guy that has been one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game."
The quarterbacks will get a lot of the attention — Manning for his perfect career mark against Cincinnati, Dalton for his penchant to melt down in big games — when the Broncos play the Bengals on Monday night. But it'll be the running backs who are on the spot in a game between teams trying to set themselves up for deep playoff runs.
If the Broncos (11-3) and Bengals (9-4-1) get their way, it'll be C.J. Anderson and Jeremy Hill getting most of the attention.
Both teams have started putting more emphasis on the run as the playoffs approach. The Broncos have already won the AFC West and would clinch a first-round bye with a victory at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals would earn a fourth straight trip to the playoffs with a win.
"The formula to win a championship this time of the season is teams that can run the ball and play good defense," Broncos nose tackle Terrance Knighton said.
Yeah, they all say that. In this case — for this game in particular — it's pertinent.
Manning is 8-0 against the Bengals, but he's not in the best of health. Manning played with the flu and strained his right thigh during a 22-10 win at San Diego last Sunday. He was limited in practice during the week.
"We'll see how the rest of the week goes and when (Monday) comes around, we'll see how he feels," offensive coordinator Adam Gase said on Friday.
So it would be beneficial to get another big game out of Anderson, who led all NFL players with 709 total yards in November and had back-to-back games rushing for 167 and 168 yards. He's in good shape heading into the Monday night game.
"Body's feeling fine, I'm great," Anderson said. "It's that time of the year where teams want to run the ball and teams want to play defense and we can still throw the ball, which is great because we have No. 18 back there."
Dalton is healthy, but the Bengals are looking to make him more of a role player in their third prime-time game of the season. Dalton's worst moments have come in the playoffs (0-3) and prime time (2-6). The Bengals got blown out by New England and Cleveland in their two prime-time games this season.
Hill leads all NFL rookies with 877 yards rushing. He ran for 148 yards during 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.
The second-round pick from LSU likes to celebrate touchdowns distinctively. After a score in Cleveland on Sunday, he tried to jump into the Dawg Pound but got pushed away by two fans.
"I like to have a lot of intensity, man," Hill said. "It's just bringing a lot of passion and intensity to the game and just running hard. Try to (energize) my teammates and get those guys going. I like to have fun out there, as well."
The Bengals ran for a season-high 244 yards in Cleveland, an indication that their running game is finally rounding into form.
"It's been a long process, but I think we're getting there," offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said. "Do I think we're there yet? No. You guys will know when we're there because everybody will feel it and see it. I saw a glimpse of it a week ago and we've just got to keep at it."
AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton in Denver contributed to this report.
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