As the years have passed, these two have separated themselves from the pack, but the postseason has been a different story. Manning lost three straight playoff games before last Sunday’s win over San Diego and Brady has suffered tough home losses to the Jets and Ravens (twice). Neither quarterback is where they once were, which brings us to Sunday. Manning threw for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns — breaking Brady’s 2007 mark of 50 touchdowns — to lead Denver to a 13-3 season and the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Just like the old days, Peyton has a prolific offense and a sub par defense, while Brady is dragging along a group of cast-offs and misfits along for the ride.
The Patriots No. 1 running back (LaGarrette Blount) and cornerback (Aqib Talib) were discarded by Tampa Bay dictator Greg Schiano only to excel under ‘The Patriot Way’ and New England’s receivers are made up of guys you have probably never heard of. The New England defense will be without All-Pro’s Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork and the offense will be without All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Brady is the underdog this time around despite leading his teams to eight more playoff and two more Super Bowl victories than Manning. Both players face a mountain of pressure as they have more big games like this in their rearview mirror than ahead of them. No matter who you are rooting for Sunday afternoon, the season is going to end for one of these great quarterbacks, and maybe the final chance to win one last Super Bowl.
This is the kind of opportunity that created Brady’s legacy in the first place. On paper, Denver should be able to handle New England fairly easily, but if we’ve learned one thing, it’s not wise to count out Tom Brady.