Both have been debated as to who's ultimately going to go down as the better quarterback. They have set records and broken each other's records—they've both passed for the single-season touchdown record, Manning had to do it twice after Brady broke it—and have countless credentials to prove their greatness.
But when the argument boils down to one category, the postseason, Brady always wins. Maybe not always—he's been 8-7 since starting his career at 10-0 in the playoffs—but he has dashed Manning's hopes twice and won a super Bowl both times.
In fact, when the two quarterbacks have played against one another in the postseason, the winner has gone on to win the Super Bowl. That proves how pivotal this game is; the winner can almost relax after being tested by the other quarterback's offense against their next opponent.
Mike Wise of The Washington Post sums it up pretty well in his column:
This game is being cast as pro football’s octagon: You know, the whole, “Two QBs Enter, One Leaves,” as if the result will not only decide a Super Bowl berth but also will settle a decade-and-a-half-long debate over which quarterback has the greater legacy.
But rather than it being like an MMA fight between two guys that are nearing the twilight of their careers, the supporting cast for both quarterbacks will be in the ring with them.
In the backfield, both teams feature a troop of running backs that are on top of their games coming in.
With Knowshon Moreno and LeGarrette Blount at the top of the crop, it appears both signal-callers could lean on their lead back.
Then there's the passing game. No one has done that better this year than Manning. After setting single-season records in passing yards and touchdowns, the 16-year veteran has never looked better.
Much of that is thanks to the depth in his receiving corps with Demaryius Thomas (14 touchdowns in the regular season), Julius Thomas (12 TDs), Eric Decker (11 TDs) and Brady's old friend Wes Welker (10 TDs).
As far as clutch is concerned for receivers, Thomas and Welker have been two of the best over the last two seasons, according to ESPN Stats and Info:
Wes Welker: joins Vernon Davis & Demaryius Thomas as only players with a TD catch in each of last 3 postseasons— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 12, 2014
Brady's receiving corps has been depleted this season and he's had to lean heavily on slot receivers Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman more than he probably wanted to at the beginning of the season. But with both quarterbacks going against porous passing defenses, they will likely both finish with good numbers in the passing game.
Can either quarterback win the Super Bowl?
With both having their strengths and weaknesses on offense and defense, the game could come down once again to how both legendary quarterbacks perform in the clutch. That's something Brady has done better than any quarterback this season, according to ESPN Stats and Info:
Manning may go down as one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the game, but his track record in the playoffs doesn't exactly give anyone confidence.
Ask Ty Law, Tracy Porter or even Corey Graham how accurate Manning's passes are when the bright lights are shining at the end of a playoff game.
Here are the facts: No quarterback has more playoff wins (18) than Brady. Joe Montana is the closest with 16. No quarterback has more playoff losses than Manning with 11.
To be perfectly honest, I hope that I'm wrong. I hope that it ends up being a huge win in Manning's favor. The man is more deserving than anyone of being viewed as the greatest quarterback in NFL history, but there's still something missing.
The preparation and energy that Manning puts into every game is undeniable, but continuing to falter in the playoffs is another part of the argument that won't go away. And running up against Brady again, a quarterback who is 10-4 against him and 2-1 in the playoffs, doesn't help matters.
For all of the success that his brother Eli has had against Brady in his career with two Super Bowl wins over him, Peyton simply hasn't been so lucky.
Though the war will continue to rage on as to who the better quarterback will be when the book finally closes for Manning-Brady, it will be Brady that wins the battle on Sunday for the AFC Championship.
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