Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: The Great Manning-Favre Debate

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterOctober 15, 2014

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1. Manning versus Favre

There is a good chance Peyton Manning will throw for three touchdown passes this week and move past Brett Favre into first place all time for most ever. Manning has 506, Favre ended his career with 508.

The record represents many things. It represents the delicious efficiency of Manning. It represents his steadfastness, his ability to throw with awe-inspiring accuracy, Manning's way of always producing in the regular season at the highest of levels. 

It represents greatness, in all of its forms.

"I don't know if any of these records are big for me," Manning said, "especially in the middle of the season. We're playing a tough schedule, we've got the 49ers at home, and they've been one of the dominant teams of the past couple of years. That's all I'm thinking about."

Yeah, sure, Peyton. Sure that's all you're thinking about.

The record will also represent the NFL's version of inflation. Part of Manning's accomplishment happened in this era when touchdowns, because of handcuffed defenses, can be bought by the penny.

This record represents many things, yes. Manning's greatness. His robotic awesomeness. But one thing the record should not do is obscure how great Favre was. Favre's record will fall, but I can argue, easily, that in many ways he was a better quarterback than Manning.

I won't even deal with off the field. Off the field, Favre was a rogue, and Manning is Captain America. But on it, Favre was able to get the touchdown record—despite at times being a turnover machine—playing the prime of his career in the 1990s.

ANDY MANIS/Associated Press

The game was more brutal then. Of course, Favre played into the 2000s and for the early part of that decade was still highly effective, but his best years were the 1990s. Quarterbacks could still get brutalized and defensive backs could still grab and hold. It was a different era, far tougher than the years that would come.

Manning's career mostly spans the 2000s. The game had already begun to change, slightly, early in his career, and it had changed in full force later. Last season, when Manning threw for the most passing yards in a season with 5,477, it was an entirely different NFL than the one Favre played in.

Again, I know Favre played a nice chunk of football in the 2000s, but he wasn't truly Favre-ian for all of those years—while Manning, despite his surgery, has been.

There's also this crucial fact: Favre played with good but not great receivers. Manning has made receivers around him better, but he also played with unbelievable talent. In Indianapolis, he had Marvin Harrison, who deserves Hall of Fame consideration, Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon. Now, in Denver, he plays with Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, and tight end Julius Thomas is one of the most physically gifted talents in football today.

Manning's milestone is historic, and it will be celebrated—as it should be.

But let's be not forget the great player and, yes, flawed human being Manning will pass. Many will automatically say Manning was better than Favre.

I'm just not so sure.

2. Lions picked wrong kicker

Last week, the Lions had a field-goal competition between Matt Prater and Jay Feely. What Feely did in that kickoff was remarkable.

According to a source close to the situation, Feely made 19 of 20 field goals. He connected from 50, 50, 53, 53, 55, 55, 58, 60, 60 and 61. His sole miss was from 58.

I don't know how Prater kicked, but I can't imagine it was much better than that. Prater would go on to miss two field goals in the Vikings game on Sunday, a 17-3 Lions win.

Now, maybe Feely would have missed. Who knows? But I doubt it.

My belief: The Lions went with Prater because he's 30 years old and Feely is 38. Despite the fact Feely is kicking like he's 28.

What you see in the NFL is that age matters, even when it comes to kickers. It shouldn't, with kickers especially. Only the accuracy should matter, but age matters nonetheless.

3. Belichick: It's us versus them

Mike Groll/Associated Press

This isn't a stunner, but in the days after Kansas City obliterated the Patriots 41-14 on Sept. 29, it was Bill Belichick, I'm told, who once again (he's done this several times as Patriots coach over the years) played the world-is-against-us card.

Did it work? Who knows. It was likely a combination of things which led to the Patriots' turnaround (43-17 win versus Cincinnati; 37-22 win over Buffalo).

One thing, a Patriots source said, was that the health of Rob Gronkowski has improved dramatically to the point where is starting to run like the old Gronk. This has allowed New England to open up the offense more while the coaches simultaneously firmed up the offensive line.

4. The Big Bang Theory

One last thing on the Patriots: Their win over Buffalo drew a 28.4 household rating and season-high 67 market share, according to the league, which is just incredible.

The CBS show The Big Bang Theory—no match for the Patriots—got a 12.4 rating and 19 share. I always wanted to get an NFL team and The Big Bang Theory into the same sentence. OK, moving on.

Another ratings note: Sports Illustrated media writer Richard Deitsch tweeted: 

Good number for baseball. Solid number, period...until you consider that Monday night's regular-season game between Seattle and Washington drew 13.1 million viewers.

That's the power, for the moment, of the NFL.

5. Winston

Chuck Burton/Associated Press

You're going to see a lot of quotes like these in the coming months. I've been getting a steady stream of them from NFL personnel about Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. The latest controversy has Winston being investigated for signing autographs for money.

This from an NFL scout who is one of the most levelheaded I know: "Autograph stuff, I don't care. The totality of what he's been accused of makes me wonder if he should be gone from our draft board."

6. Throw of the month

This is the kind of throw Colin Kaepernick can make, despite a degree of difficulty that is unreal. Plays like that are why guys like Kap are the future.

7. Geno blames media

Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

I still believe that Geno Smith can be a good quarterback in the NFL, but he's certainly not helping his cause. Usually the beginning of the end of a player on the margins of success is when he blames the media for his faults. An NFL quarterback blaming the media, when he's made a ton of mistakes on his own—like, being incapable of telling time—is never good.

I could be wrong, but I don't recall Russell Wilson blaming the media for mistakes he's made. Again, I could be wrong. When things went pear-shaped a few weeks ago in Green Bay, it was Aaron Rodgers who said: R-E-L-A-X. Not it's the media's fault.

Thinking of a time when Andrew Luck blamed the media? I can't recall one. Maybe Tom Brady has, but, again, I can't recall one.

What you want to hear from Smith is, well, very little. You hear barely a peep from Luck or Wilson. The only time you hear anything about Brady is when he posts funny pics on Instagram.

All Smith has to do is chill. Focus on his job. Ignore the media—as hard as it is, admittedly. Just play football.

And maybe buy a watch that won't automatically adjust to different time zones.

8. Brian Hoyer is future of the Browns

Tony Dejak/Associated Press

Allow me to pat myself on the back for a moment. I always thought Brian Hoyer, if given the chance, would be a good NFL quarterback. Not great but good. And he's good.

One thing sticks out from when I spent almost a week in Cleveland during training camp: how much teammates loved Hoyer. What I heard repeatedly was how professional he was. Over and over. Veteran after veteran.

It's been some 15 years since the Browns were this close to having a franchise thrower, and as I've been saying for months, this is not the same ol' Browns. Hoyer is the guy, and he will be for years.

Now the question becomes: What do the Browns do with Johnny Manziel?

9. Larry Fitzgerald can still play

Matt York/Associated Press

Last week, very quietly, Larry Fitzgerald played in his 161st game with the Arizona Cardinals. He passed two Hall of Famers, Aeneas Williams and Dan Dierdorf, for 10th-most games in team history.

This season overall has been a quiet one for Fitzgerald, but last weekend, in scoring for the Cardinals, he showed he can still play at a high level. The difference was Carson Palmer played this week, and Palmer gets the football to Fitzgerald whenever possible because, yes, Fitzgerald can still play.

He isn't 22 any longer, but he still scares defenses. With Palmer back, look for Fitzgerald to be a major factor again.

10. No defense

TD passes through six weeks
SeasonTD passes

Teams have thrown 303 touchdown passes so far, a record for the first six weeks of a season, according to the NFL. The previous record was 289 in 2013.

What's happening now in football is actually remarkable. The sport continues to be remade right before our eyes. Since defenses can no longer be physical, offenses are running rampant.

Consider the numbers: Just 12 years ago at this time there were 263 touchdown passes, and that was a record high. That doesn't seem like a huge difference, but it shows how quickly football is changing toward an offense-dominated league.

And it will only become more that way.

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.


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