These two players have largely been considered the greatest passers of their era and are on just about everyone's all-time top 10 quarterbacks list on this website.
The barroom debate over who is better is usually a feisty one. Many claim Brady is better now that he has bested Manning's single-season touchdown record. They also point to Brady's postseason success—three Super Bowl victories to Manning's one.
The Manning backers shoot right back with two MVPs to Brady's one and a much more impressive career dossier. The truth is, if both players retired right now, they would be first-ballot Hall of Famers.
This season, Manning began the year hobbling from knee surgery. He had an infected bursa sac that prohibited him from participating in training camp and all four of the Colts' preseason games.
Tom Brady also sat out the preseason with the foot injury that plagued him the end of last season. In the Patriots' first game of the 2008 regular season, Brady injured his knee and was lost for the year.
The Colts looked very ordinary in the first two months of the season, as Manning tried to regain his form. They went 3-4 in their first seven games, and Game Eight was the perennial matchup against New England. Manning and the Colts pulled out an 18-15 win against the Brady-less Pats.
They have not lost since.
On the other hand, the Patriots, without Brady, have not been the league power they have become accustomed of being. But they have not exactly failed, either.
Brady's backup, Matt Cassel—an unproven player on both the professional and the collegiate levels—has gradually seeped into the Patriots offense.
After a baptism by fire, Cassel has developed quite nicely. So nicely that many have forgotten about Brady. Cassel has thrown for 3,600 yards in 15 games with 21 touchdowns. He is having a great December and has the Patriots knocking at the door of the AFC playoffs.
The Colts, meanwhile, thank their lucky stars for Manning. He is single-handedly carrying the Colts on his back—possibly toward the Super Bowl to face his little brother, Eli.
Brady can only sit and watch, very Wally Pipp-like, as Cassel more than keeps his seat warm. He makes news only through his celebrity now, proposing to his supermodel girlfriend on a private jet on Christmas Eve.
The argument over who is better right now has subsided. Manning has wrested the mantle as the game's best player and is keeping it all to himself.