Brady vs. Manning 17: Why This One Matters

If Fast and the Furious ever gets this many sequels, I quit.

I understand if you’re exhausted from hearing about this. It’s a storyline that’s been shoved down your throat for 2 decades, and both quarterbacks have their detractors. There’s a reason you’ve heard all the narratives for as long as you have though.

The last time neither Peyton Manning nor Tom Brady were in the AFC Championship was in 2011. Before then, it was 2006. Brady and Manning will be facing off for the 17th time this weekend, but it will be the 5th time in the playoffs with both winning 2 games a piece. Manning actually has an edge on Brady, having won 2 of their 3 matchups in the AFC Championship. This time could (and should) be their last, and it will be for a shot at Super Bowl 50.

When you bring up Manning and Brady, you’re talking about two of the best to play their position, the most important position in the most watched sport in the country. One year separates the two in age (Manning 39, Brady 38), and they are both in the Top 6 of career touchdowns, yards and passer rating. Manning ranks 1st, 1st, and 5th, Brady is 3rd, 5th and 6th. Brady’s 4 Super Bowl rings compared to Manning’s 1 are pretty glaring, but it’s still too fitting to see either of these 2 get another chance to play on the biggest stage in sports. Just a year ago, the Super Bowl drew it’s largest audience with 114.4 million people watching.

The numbers for both quarterbacks in their 16 meetings make up that of a solid regular season. Manning has completed 410 of 657 passes (62.4%) for 4,809 yards, 33 TDs and 22 INTs (87.4 QB rating). Brady has completed 367 of 553 passes (66.4%) for 4,013 yards, 31 TDs and 13 INTs (96.5 QB rating). Brady leads the series 11-5, with an 8-2 record against Manning at Foxboro and split 3-3 in Indianapolis/Denver. In the last 10 years though, Manning is 2-0 in the playoffs against Brady. Neither one has won against each other on the road since 2007.

Who has the most to gain with a win this Sunday though, with legacies mostly cemented going? Brady holds the record for most playoff wins (22) and has a 73.3 win percentage while Manning holds the record for the most playoff losses (13). Regardless the result of Sunday’s game, Brady will go down as one of football’s all-time greats as a winner because of his post season hardware. Manning will unfortunately be remembered as the greatest “regular season” quarterback who only came home with the ultimate prize once out of 15 chances, with a younger brother holding a second ring over his head…unless he wins Sunday and February 7th.

It’s amazing Manning has reached this point following his worst statistical regular season of his career and having to sit out due to injury. He’s had transform his game from being the dominant quarterback to “game manager”, and it worked great against the Steelers. With a Super Bowl quality defense, all Manning has to do now is hand the ball off, make the right checks evaluating the coverage, not turn the ball over, and make a play when it’s needed.

Brady self sack.gif

There are only 11 quarterbacks with multiple Super Bowl rings:

Eli Manning – 2

Ben Roethlisberger – 2

John Elway – 2

Jim Plunkett – 2

Roger Staubach – 2

Bob Greise – 2

Bart Starr – 2

Troy Aikman – 3

Terry Bradshaw – 4

Joe Montana – 4

If Brady wins one more, he joins club of his own with 5. If Manning wins one more, he joins the club and fans will remember that more than the 13 playoff losses. Ask Elway, who lost 8 times before winning his 2 rings back-to-back to end his career. Can Manning have his Elway moment?

I tried to think about where this rivalry stacks up in sports. It’s not quite Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird. Two all-time greats, yes, but there were 8 championships won between the two (Magic 5, Bird 3) and they had to do it against each other in the Finals. Ali/Frazier was a whole different level of competition, and disrespect for each other. Bill Russell vs. Wilt Chamberlain though…

Russell is the greatest winner in basketball history with 11 championships and Chamberlain was statistically one of the best to ever play his position while winning his second ring late in his career. A big difference is that Russell and Chamberlain had to actually man-up on each other, but the legacy comparisons between them and Brady/Manning are certainly there.

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