On the eve of what might very well be the game of the year, the debates continue to sizzle in regards to the classic "Manning vs. Brady" situation.
And just when you might feel as though you've read 10 too many articles of this nature, I figured this would be the perfect time to shed some light on an old debate from a different perspective.
It is no secret that fans of each respective team don't have much love for one another.
Some of us respect each other (I can think of a number of brilliant Patriots fans on this website alone) and I'm sure there are also plenty of us who can’t stand each other.
But before I get into the specifics, I'm going to break down the comparison between Manning and Brady as it pertains to this 2009 season thus far.
221 of 313 (70.6 percent) for 2,545 yards (8.1 YPA), 16 touchdowns and five interceptions. 105.2 quarterback rating.
204 of 310 (65.8 percent) for 2,364 yards (7.6 YPA), 16 touchdowns and five interceptions. 99.2 quarterback rating.
Without question, both players have played at a very high level this season.
Manning should be credited for playing so well while having to throw to a number of back-up receivers and Brady should be credited for playing so well coming off of a devastating knee injury.
I could split hairs as to which set of circumstances might be more difficult to play under, which might seem unfair, but I'm going to anyway in the interest of fairness no less.
People LOVE to make things seem as trade-offs.
For instance, we often hear Manning is the "big numbers guy" while Brady is the "winner" so they are both so close that it is impossible to choose between the two.
While this is certainly not the perspective of everyone, I hear it enough that it certainly warrants mention if nothing else. But for now, I'm going to focus my attention of the various sets of circumstances that both Manning and Brady have faced this season.
Peyton Manning has played with back-up receivers in light of Anthony Gonzalez's week one injury. Yet still, Manning has managed to be THE most productive quarterback in the entire league.
He has been backed by one of the worst rushing offenses that pro football has to offer and despite this, he has thrown only five interceptions when every defense walking earth knows that his only chance to advance on the football field is through the air.
Brady hasn't exactly been backed by a HOF-caliber rushing attack, but his team has managed to out-rush the Colts offense 914-yards (4.1 YPC) to 683-yards (3.7 YPC).
I'd mention also the fact that Manning is playing with a rookie head coach compared to Brady who is playing with Bill Belichick (whom he has spent his entire career with) but that seems to be pretty self explanatory.
What I find to be disturbing is to watch TV and hear those points mentioned in passing as though they have little impact upon each quarterback's playing situation.
To be fair though, we have to look at Brady's post-surgical situation.
He has managed to play at a very high level despite having missed almost a full year of football while recovering from a serious knee injury.
This is impressive, no doubt.
But to me, not nearly as impressive as what Carson Palmer did in 2006.
He had all three ligaments in his knee torn up with a dislocated kneecap to boot, only he had half of the recovery time to work with.
Palmer did manage to come back, and he came back playing at a Pro Bowl level.
Only Palmer didn't receive half of the attention Brady did because no matter how well he played, you sprinkle in a little bit of that 17th-ranked Bengals defense and you end up 8-8 instead of 12-4.
But I suppose that everyone is going to have their own views as to who has been playing under more difficult circumstances this season, so to each his own.
Now I'd like to get into why fans of both the Colts and Patriots tend to dislike one another (expanding upon the obvious fact that they support rival teams).
I'm going to explain why I feel that Patriots fans don't like Manning and the Colts, but I expect most of them to disagree with my assumption.
When it comes to fans of successful teams, it is in their nature to take pride in the accolades they have achieved as well as the championships they have won.
The next logical step is to assume or feel as though their team is the absolute best that the NFL has to offer. After all, they would have to be given the fact that they won the Super Bowl.
Funny how this concept goes right out the door when talking about the 2007 season.
The New York Giants were NOT the best team that year, neither were the Colts for that matter.
The New England Patriots were by far the best team during the 2007 season and my opinion in that regard would not have changed if they won Super Bowl XLII.
They were the best regardless due to how well they played for the great majority of the entire season.
But back to where I was going with this.
If you are a fan who believes that your team is the "creme de la creme" of the NFL, it is only natural to feel as though your quarterback is also the league's finest.
Since the quarterback is the most important position in pro football, it would only be logical to assume that the league's best quarterback would just so happen to play right along side the league's best team.
For many fans, simply winning the Super Bowl is not good enough.
If the league's best quarterback isn't winning as many championships as the guy next to him, how could he possibly be as good?
It's a shame that so many people think this way.
The logical answer being team support.
The support of your entire team, offense, defense, special teams, coaching staff, etc. is all going to impact your quarterback's chances of winning.
You often hear that since Manning has better receiving targets to throw to, that Manning and Brady's chances of winning championships seem to be something of a trade-off.
Never mind the fact that the Patriots as an entire team (I'm not talking about a lone stud running back) have run for more yards, more YPC, and more touchdowns while Brady has been their quarterback compared to a Colts rushing attack (usually featuring a lone stud running back) who have ran for fewer yards, fewer YPC, and fewer touchdowns.
Then you take the defensive side of the ball (which last time I checked comprised about 50-percent of your chances of winning) which has been so much greater in the Patriots favor, it's not even really worthy of debate.
People remember the few good Colts defensive squads (or should I say, few awesome players) and throw out the seven years of very poor defensive support, in the same way that they remember the three years (2004-06) Manning has multiple productive receiving targets (Harrison & Wayne) and ignore the fact that he's been throwing to one lone 1,000-yard plus receiver for eight of his 11 seasons.
This is the kind of generally adopted perspective that upsets Colts fans.
People often turn a blind eye to the reality of a player's given support in favor of something that simply sounds right.
I cannot tell you how many times I've heard someone say that Peyton Manning has played with a defense that has boasted Dwight Freeney and Bob Sanders, therefore Colts fans have no reason to complain.
We have improved a lot this season but all one has to do is go back and watch games from years prior to understand exactly what I'm talking about.
Then go back and watch some of the Belichick-coached Patriots defenses of the past decade to determine just how much impact both defensive squads have on the game's eventual outcome.
But back to the quarterback position.
You often hear, Peyton Manning is the "big numbers guy."
If you have ever heard someone say this, you should take immediate notice of the insult masked within the statement.
"Big numbers guy" to me implies something negative.
That is why I use the term "production" because that's what it really is. "Big numbers" is simply a simplistic way to state an aspect of much greater importance than the speaker chooses to give it.
Production accounts for how often you move your team up and down the field and how many points you put on the board.
If a quarterback like Tom Brady can move his team up and down the field less while putting fewer points on the board and still end up winning more often then the guy who moves his team up and down the field more while putting more points on the board, what does this tell you?
Think about the past paragraph for a moment, and think seriously about it.
Fans try to credit less productive players with attributes that cannot be quantified.
Why, you might ask?
Because logically, if one player is less productive than the other, you have to create reasons for which you feel him to be better than the guy who is doing more on the football field.
You can glorify "clutch" plays all you want but the reality is that a touchdown counts as six points be it in the first quarter or the fourth.
That is not to take away the value there is in coming through when you need to win the game, it’s just the degree in which people value those moments, even if the quarterback failed to produce during the rest of the game (look at Brady’s performance in Super Bowl XXXVI for a perfect example).
Think about this…
You have two quarterbacks. Both throw for three touchdowns and one interception.
One quarterback throws his lone interception in the first quarter but closes the game throwing three touchdown passes, the final one being the eventual "game-winner."
We call this quarterback clutch.
The other quarterback throws his three touchdown passes earlier in the game but finishes the game with an interception that ended his team's chances of victory.
We often call this quarterback a choker.
Both quarterbacks put an equal amount of points on the board.
The difference between each team's eventual outcomes lies in the performance of other aspects of the game. The running game, the defense, and special teams.
Yet we as people tend to glorify one side and criticize the other simply because that is how the reality "seems" to most people.
To many people, it just has to sound right. It doesn't have to be right.
It's not that people are looking to intentionally deceive themselves; they simply know only what has become natural over a lifetime's worth of fan-hood.
But back to the Manning vs. Brady situation.
If Tom Brady could win more while producing less, to make it seem as though the quality of support was somewhat equal is simply ridiculous.
If Peyton Manning were to suddenly throw for fewer yards and fewer touchdowns during all of these years, the Colts would have simply lost more games.
Colts fans dislike the Patriots not out of jealousy (we’ve won five out of the last six games), but because of the absurd double-standard that exists in regards to the two teams, especially in regards to the quarterbacks.
Flash back to 2007 for a moment.
Manning goes 33 of 48 for 402 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions (97.7 rating) in a losing effort to the San Diego Chargers. As a result, people say that he "choked" in a big playoff game.
The next week, Tom Brady goes 22 of 33 for 209 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions (66.3 rating) in a winning effort for which few people criticize Brady's performance.
Yet Manning is the choke-artist while Brady is the same clutch quarterback that he had always been known for?
Heck, Manning's team couldn't beat a Chargers team without Philip Rivers while the Patriots faced and defeated the starting quarterback.
If Manning is moving his team up and down the field more, putting more points on the board and turning the ball over less frequently, why is it that he loses when a quarterback who moves his team up and down the field less, puts fewer points on the board and turns the ball over more frequently wins?
Again, the logical answer being team support.
Yet instances like this either in individual cases or in regards to the years that both quarterbacks have played have tended to go generally ignored in the favor of blind generalizations.
It's easier that way.
Colts fans don't like how the Patriots could steal signals for seven seasons only to be slapped on the wrist.
Their head coach can be crucified by the media while their quarterback (who obviously benefited by knowledge acquired through illegal means) is not even questioned by the media at all.
When was the last time anyone heard of Tom Brady having to answer for six seasons of stealing signals?
It's not so much that it was Tom Brady's fault as it is the fact that his legacy appears to be un-effected by the magnitude of what Spygate was.
And for every fan who has given the general "Well, every team does it" excuse, allow me to be logical for a moment.
Every reporter on the planet (even Bleacher Reporters) would love to break the next big Spygate scandal.
Especially for Patriots fans, proof of any other team doing the same would only help to better their legacy as they would no longer be the lone violators.
And it wouldn't be hard to prove if "any" other team did it, much less “every” other team.
NFL Films records every game played every Sunday. If any other team besides New England had a camera-man pointed where he shouldn't be, it would show up on film time after time.
Yet, two years after the Spygate story broke; even those who have been searching have failed to find evidence to support the irrational claim that "every team does it".
So again, I'm not blaming Tom Brady for what his coaching staff did, I just feel that it is clearly relevant in regards to the context of his career.
The Patriots run if nothing else, a brilliant organization. To think that they would hire anyone to do anything that would be of "zero value" is absurd, much less hire someone to break a rule which is pretty difficult to mis-interpret (and would have been very easy to find out if one cared to check).
But I don't want to end all of this on such a negative note.
This Sunday's match-up looks to be promising.
Colts/Patriots games are usually filled to the brim with excitement, and this year looks to be no different.
Both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are playing at an elite level and it is rare that we get the opportunity to see two fine quarterbacks of this caliber face off.
For what it is worth, Tom Brady appears to be getting better year after year. He is in my opinion, a far greater quarterback today than he was back when he was winning championships.
Which just goes to show that there is much more to winning championships than just your quarterback.
Even if their names are Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.