DENVER – All summer, people tried handicapping the Broncos' starting running back competition, hoping to crack the code for fantasy football gains.
Ronnie Hillman or Montee Ball? Ball or Hillman? Turns out the answer is neither, and it's not like new starter Knowshon Moreno is going to matter much either.
Remember that third preseason game, the dress rehearsal, when Peyton Manning threw 34 times in the first half against the Rams? Well, that wasn't some weird preseason experiment. That's what the Broncos' offense will be.
Manning, Manning and more Manning. Get ready for it.
Manning passed 19 times in the first half for 160 yards. The Broncos ran the ball eight times for 21 yards, and the eight rushing attempts seemed almost obligatory, like it would have broken some NFL code to just throw 27 straight times. Moreno started and had seven of those eight rushes. Hillman and Ball barely saw the field.
Moreno is a very safe option. He averaged 3.8 yards on 247 carries last year. This is his fifth NFL season and although he's a former first-round pick, Moreno is not going to suddenly become LeSean McCoy or Jamaal Charles. He's safe. And that's why he plays.
He doesn't fumble, like Hillman did in the preseason. The Broncos can trust him to protect Manning, which is an issue for the rookie Ball. And that's what the Broncos offense needs most, with Manning cranking up his right arm time after time. Keep the 37-year-old as clean as possible while he throws 600 (650? Heck, 700?) times this season. Everything else is gravy.
So Moreno plays most, at least for now, even if it means you might have wasted that fantasy football pick on Hillman or Ball.