Injuries hit quarterbacks for NFL division leaders

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Washington (AFP) - NFL division leaders Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Denver were fretting about the status of their starting quarterbacks Monday as their push to the playoffs approaches a climax.

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton is "week-to-week" with a fractured right thumb while Indianapolis is ready to welcome back Andrew Luck after an injury to 40-year-old fill-in Matt Hasselbeck and Denver could welcome back Peyton Manning from injury next week.

The Bengals (10-3) ruled out Dalton from Sunday's visit to San Francisco despite the fact he did not need surgery on his throwing thumb, which was hurt while he made a tackle after throwing an interception in a 33-20 loss at the weekend to Pittsburgh.

"We got positive news on (Andy). We'll go week-to-week on it. He stays in a cast," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. "It was the best-case scenario."

AJ McCarron, with only four prior NFL pass attempts before Sunday, is the only quarterback now on the Bengals' active roster. A veteran passer could yet be added as a reserve against the 49ers, with Ryan Mallett and Christian Ponder mentioned.

"It's unfortunate that it happened at this point in the season," Dalton said. "I'll do everything I can to get back as quick as I can to help this team. I'm doing fine. There are people way worse off than I am."

The Bengals have not won a playoff game since 1990, losing their past seven post-season starts, including a first-round game each of the past four seasons.

At Indianapolis, Luck said his goal was to practice this week after recovering from a lacerated kidney and torn abdominal muscle suffered last month in a Colts' victory over Denver.

"Feeling a lot better," Luck said. "The hope is that you can start practicing so that when you are clear, you can hit the ground running. So it'll be a little bit of a learning curve again, but I don't imagine it to be too big of an issue."

Luck will meet doctors this week to determine his status for Sunday's crucial home game against AFC South co-leader Houston, both teams at 6-7.

"Throwing felt great," Luck said. "Conditioning-wise, it's a process. When you take time off, it takes a little more time to get back into it."

Replacement Hasselbeck was hurt in a 51-16 loss at Jacksonville in which journeyman Charlie Whitehurst finished the game. The Jaguars added to Hasselbeck's neck, rib and shoulder injuries.

"He took a couple good shots there," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "Still basically the ribs that he's dealing with."

- Manning eyes return -

At Denver, coach Gary Kubiak would not name his starter for the Broncos' game Sunday against Pittsburgh. Each of the past four weeks he said Brock Osweiler would start rather than injured Manning and Osweiler went 3-1.

But Kubiak has said Manning will be the starter when he is healthy. That will be known later this week.

"I've got to see where (Manning) is at," Kubiak said. "We've got to talk through his situation."

Manning, 39, has been sidelined with a variety of injuries, the most serious of which is a foot injury. He has not played in a game since being removed in the third quarter of a 29-13 loss to Kansas City last month. He has not had a full workout since.

The Broncos (10-3) have produced only one offensive touchdown over their past eight quarters.