Here we are again.
The eve of another Brady vs. Manning matchup to determine whose team goes to the Super Bowl. It is the fourth time that these two quarterbacks and the teams they play for will meet in the AFC Championship Game. Brady, of course, has been a Patriot for all four games. Manning, who went 1-2 in conference title games against New England, is trying to take the Broncos back to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 1998 season.
We can all agree one thing that puts these two on common ground going into Sunday afternoon's game: Both have been on their own personal dry-spells.
Brady has been to five Super Bowls. After winning the first three, the Patriots were defeated by Peyton's brother, Eli, and the Giants in Super Bowl's XLII and XLVI. That's a nice career for a 6th round pick out of Michigan in the 2000 NFL Draft.
Payton has the credentials of a hall of fame quarterback. Him and Brady will both be in Canton down the road.
For Manning, he gets another chance to reach the Super Bowl. He's defeated Brady and the Patriots on the way to the Colts' Super Bowl XLI title in 2006. A win over the surprising New York Jets in the 2009 title game got Indianapolis to Super Bowl XLIV, before losing to the Saints.
In his first playoff game as a Bronco, Manning threw an interception in overtime in the AFC Divisional round against Baltimore that set up a game-winning field goal to send the Ravens to Foxboro last season. This added to the "Manning can't win in big moments" rhetoric.
For Manning, Gillette Stadium has been his house of horrors for AFC title games. Colts fans do not want to remember his four interception showing in 2003. The good news is that the Patriots are coming to Denver for the title game. So that works to Manning's advantage.
While this is a silver lining, the pressure will definitely be on one of the games best quarterbacks in the past two decades, but should there really be that much critcism toward Manning if the Broncos lose Sunday?
Manning's NFL and franchise records and could fill an entire page (or two). This season alone, he threw 55 touchdown passes at the age of 37. All of those records mean little to nothing to some. Those people are the ones who judge quarterbacks on their record in big games like the one coming up Sunday, and the number of Super Bowl rings they accumulate over their career.
If we judged a quarterback on the number of Super Bowls they have won, we would assume that Eli Manning was a better quarterback than big brother Peyton. We all know that is not the case, especially after watching the younger Manning play this season. Regardless, Eli still has bragging rights at the dinner table at Christmas.
Over the years, analysts, experts and the armchair quarterbacks of the world have debated what makes a quarterback "elite." Here is the easy thing to remember: Peyton Manning defines the word "elite" in regards to quarterbacks in the present game.
Would another Super Bowl title help Manning's legacy? Of course it would. It does not tarnish it if the Broncos fall short against New England. Peyton has a championship on his resume, and a second ring would be a nice addition for a player who should be voted into Canton in his first year of eligibility.
Even if he does lose, that's one more title than Dan Marino, and he's regarded as one of the best quarterbacks to play in the NFL. That discussion is for another day.