On April 18th, 1998, the Indianapolis Colts selected quarterback Peyton Manning with the first-overall selection. Manning played for the Colts from 1998-2011, taking them to two Super Bowls, and winning one. Manning passed for 54,828 yards with the Colts, and collected a whopping 399 passing touchdowns. Manning also won four of his five MVP awards with Indianapolis.
Manning has played his last four seasons with the Denver Broncos, after the Colts decided to release him following concerns about the durability of his then-recently surgically-repaired neck (and the availability of Andrew Luck). Since then, as a member of the Broncos, Manning has added 17,112 passing yards, 140 touchdowns, and his fifth MVP award. In the history of the NFL, no player has more passing yards, passing touchdowns, or MVP awards than Peyton Manning.
With all the accolades and records, Manning still only has one Super Bowl victory. This is thanks in large part to Tom Brady, the New England Patriots quarterback. Brady has four Super Bowl victories, and has often stood in the way of Manning en route to the Super Bowl.
Brady wasn’t the surefire prospect that Manning was. Brady waited until the sixth-round of the 2000 NFL Draft, as the 199th selection overall. 198 spots later than Manning was taken in his respective draft. Brady spent his rookie season on the bench behind Drew Bledsoe. In his second season, Brady was given a chance after Bledsoe was injured, and since then, Brady has remained the Patriots’ starter.
Like Manning, Brady is quite the accomplished player. Four Super Bowl victories, with another two appearances. Brady was named MVP twice, and was named Super Bowl MVP three times. Brady has the most appearances (31 on Sunday) and wins (22) in history in the postseason.
Considered to be two of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game, it has been decidedly wonderful to watch the careers of these two players, and even more so, to watch them play each other. Manning was the statistical freak of nature, collecting records left and right. Brady was the adversary, the major obstacle on the way to the Super Bowl more often than not.
This Sunday, Manning and Brady will play for the seventeenth time. It is rare that quarterbacks in different divisions play this often, and is a credit to how many times these two have made it deep into the playoffs. Brady has the advantage in overall wins, with eleven. In the postseason, each quarterback has won two of their four meetings. The most recent winner was Brady and the Patriots, with a 43-21 victory over Manning and the Broncos in 2014.
Let’s take a closer look at their last two meetings:
The first meeting, Manning’s Broncos dominated, but in the second meeting, Brady’s Patriots exacted revenge. Although this data is over a year old, it’s important to note that the rivalry isn’t as one-sided as the 11-5 (Brady) record makes it seem.
This season presented a monumental change to the dynamic however, as Manning played the worst statistical season of his career and spent six weeks on the bench battling injuries. Brady, on the other hand, was his usual near-perfect self.
Take a look at how their 2015-16 campaigns compare (regular season only):
We should note that Brady played in six more games, but don’t let that fool you. Manning was one of the worst quarterbacks this season, whereas Brady was in contention for another MVP award until injuries struck New England. All of that being said, the Broncos have won ten of the twelve games in which Manning was their quarterback. The Broncos are convinced that Manning has one last Super Bowl run left in him.
The Patriots, alternatively, have been in this situation before. Tom Brady has made it to the AFC Championship nine times, this Sunday will be his tenth. Known as a playoff-performer, Brady has another tough test against the vaunted Broncos defense, but history shows us that Brady is comfortable when the pressure is on him.
Both quarterbacks have their favorite weapons available: for Brady, receiver Julian Edelman and tight-end Rob Gronkowski are expected to play. For Manning, receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders will play. Defensively, the Broncos hold the number-one ranked defense, and the Patriots are ranked number-nine.
In the end, this game will come down to the quarterbacks. Manning will have to play better than he has all season, because Brady and the Patriots hold a top-five offense. The game is being played in Denver, but that shouldn’t allow an advantage either way since both are used to playing in the cold weather.
Brady v. Manning, a storied rivalry, most likely comes to an end this week. Manning hasn’t officially announced retirement but the Broncos are ready to move on following this season and Manning’s body is breaking down. A few years down the road, Brady will join Manning in retirement. A new era of quarterbacks will make their own legacies.
No matter the outcome, just remember to enjoy this game. Because this is the last time Manning and Brady will take the field against each other. And one of them will have a chance at another Super Bowl.
Statistics provided by: ESPN.com and pro-football-reference.com
Images from USA Today, Evening Standard, Forbes, NY Post, NFL.com, Perform Group,