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Has Eli Surpassed Peyton as the Top QB?

I’ve taken my shots at Eli Manning in the past, back when it was deserved. Funny thing though: a lot changes in less than a year. It was only November that I was criticizing Eli for throwing 4 interceptions (three returned for touchdowns) in a 41-17 loss to the Vikings. He was brutal that game. A month later, he was giving the Patriots a tough test in Week 17, and then boom! Playoffs hit, and Eli was a new man. The guy who threw more than a pick a game his first four seasons became one of the best care-takers of the football of any quarterback in the league. The change happened overnight. The improvement in Eli’s game — from Week 17 last year through this season — makes me wonder whether or not he has surpassed Peyton Manning as the top quarterback in the family, which in essence would make him one of the top quarterbacks — if not the top quarterback — in the game.

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Not All Peaches with Peyton Manning

I’m not exactly sure what it is that makes this video so fascinating. Maybe it’s because Peyton is the epitome of the All-American dork — the comb over hair, the perfectly manicured suit, the Southern drawl — he just comes across as such a harmless being. But if his random appearance at a Sweet 16 party didn’t already tell you there’s more than meets the eye, maybe this video of Peyton going bezerko on his offensive line will:

A few observations here: I think I enjoy this for the same reason I’m fascinated by watching Tiger Woods come out of portapotty. It’s hard to believe these guys are human. Secondly, this pretty much confirms to me that you can catch any player in the league arguing during a game. It only appears as if T.O., Chad Johnson, and Randy Moss are the only guys bitching out there because the cameras choose to follow them. Additionally, check out FanHouse’s post on the video to read the entire transcription of the argument.

Manning Brothers Now Starring in Oreo Commercials

The great Unsilent Majority of Kissing Suzy Kolber has already slammed the Mannings for this one. In case you missed it, Eli and Peyton have joined the Double Stuff Oreo Racing League or something like that. I just know that anything with the name “double stuff” in it is somewhat sketchy. Guess they didn’t learn from Carson Palmer’s hot dog commercial. Anyway, check out the commercial the two were recently in:

You know, I have to say I really like the ESPN commercial of the brothers taking a family tour of the joint — that was cool. And the Peyton Manning “cut that meat” commercial was pretty good too. But come on, at some point you have to put the foot down and say “no,” don’t you? I would think so. Especially if they’re going to be running after your team has already been eliminated from the playoffs.

Peyton Manning Reverts to Old Form

It might be difficult at first to ignore Peyton’s gaudy statistics; 402 yards and three touchdowns is nothing to sneeze at. But even with those big numbers there is something you can’t forget: Peyton Manning threw two interceptions — both in Charger territory — costing his team points and drastically changing the game. The first pick was off a tipped ball so it’s hard to go crazy blaming Peyton for that. The second interception came when the Colts were inside the San Diego five and went the other way for six if it weren’t called back by a penalty. No doubt the Colts missed those extra points they left on the board.

Perhaps the most telling sign that Peyton reverted to his former, big-game choking self, is that he was a dismal 1/7 in his last seven passes of the game. At that time, the Colts were down four and needed a touchdown to take the lead. Indy was first and goal with just over two minutes left when Peyton missed on 2nd, 3rd, and 4th and goal. Thanks to his defense and the ineffective Billy Volek, the Colts got the ball back with 1:30 at their 32 looking to win it. Peyton completed the first pass to Addai for five yards, then missed on 2nd, 3rd, and 4th downs, turning the ball and game over to San Diego. Just like that, the 400 yards, three touchdowns, 4,000 regular season yards and 31 regular season TDs seemed meaningless. When it mattered the most, Peyton Manning could not lead the game-winning drive. We may now repeat it — typical Peyton Manning in a big game.

(Photo courtesy Darron Cummings/AP)

Aww that Peyton, he’s so cute

Being that it is the Super Bowl and there are two weeks off build up before the game, you’re going to wind up seeing a lot of weak programming.  There’s the endless mind-numbing game-breakdown, the round-table of guests, and the constant interviews.  They’ll show you a week’s worth of press conferences, assign various reporters to do featured pieces on players, and they’ll dig into the film vault to bring in past Super Bowl highlights. 

Despite the monotonous nature of the week’s television coverage, some glimmers of brilliance do shine through.  On that note, I present you Peyton Manning, circa 1990-1991 ish. Who says white guys can’t dance?

Doesn’t he make you want to just pinch his cheeks? So much for us not being able to get a hold of it!

Job not Done for Peyton

Dear Peyton,

You may have won the battle, but you have not won the war.  Yes, you led a magnificent comeback against your nemesis – the Patriots.  Yes, your team was down 21-3 at one point and you still won.  Yes, you came through and delivered in the clutch.  Yes, you outplayed 3 time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady.  Yes, you overcame the unconquerable Bill Belichick. 

Yes, you led all quarterbacks in passer rating and touchdowns in the regular season.  Yes, you are already highly ranked amongst all-time quarterbacks in passing yards and touchdowns.  Yes, you have enjoyed 377yd/5TD and 457yd/4TD games in the playoffs - and those have been overlooked.  Yes, you are already carving a niche amongst the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the game.

But let me repeat, you may have won the battle, but you have not won the war.

Unfortunately for you Peyton, going 12-4 in the AFC, beating the league’s top defense (Baltimore) on the road, and the dynasty team of the decade (Patriots) in the playoffs simply will render itself meaningless should you lose the Super Bowl. Should you lose, you will be subject to the same criticism that has plagued you since the day you set foot on the Tennessee campus – Peyton Manning cannot win the big game.

Peyton, for the sake of criticism that will never die, please win the Super Bowl.

Sincerely,

The Sports Media et al.

Stick to Tradition: Aint’s and Manning will Lose

With the conference championship games set for this coming Sunday, we’ve entered that briefest of seasonal windows during which I care to be informed about the NFL. Big, vague, and potentially dubious perceptions serve me well through most of the season in maintaining casual fandom; you know, big ideas like betting against the Mannings in big games, picking the road underdog judiciously, and a fundamental belief that Winning begets Winning most of the time (this stems from having my spent formative football years on the teat of the Bill Walsh 49ers). 

But I needed to read up a little to maximize enjoyment from both games this week. Remember, I’m a lifetime football fan who, since Steve Young’s retirement, watches start-to-finish about 3 pro games per year. The conference championships are the first two. Assuming I’m going to invest upwards of 6 hours into this, I want some context. Answers to the below questions should determine the winner of the Bears vs. Saints…

Can New Orleans win outside in January? Specifically, does Chicago retain a significant home-field advantage in the absence of traditionally brutal conditions at Soldier Field in January? Conversely, does the mere fact that this game is outdoors negate any potential speed advantage the dome-dwelling Saints offense might possess over a Bears defense that peaked far too early?

How valid is the Bears’ +8 status in turnovers? Does competing twice annually against the hapless Lions, the alarmingly un-menacing Vikings, and one history’s greatest interceptees, Brett Favre, inflate this number? 

Will Gross Rexman play a critical role in the Chicago offensive game plan? Can he turn in consecutive non-disastrous outings? Remember, the Saints had the #23 rated run defense decidedly non-elite. This is critical because if da Bears can run the ball, Grossman’s performance (good or bad) becomes less relevant to their offensive success. This is a good thing for Chicago.

Finally, don’t overlook the Saints’ turnover ratio MINUS FOUR. This strikes me as high number for a two-seed. And of course, New Orleans has never won an outdoor playoff game in the history of the franchise. Though the 2006-07 Saints will (to a MAN) deny the relevance of this, they will all be aware of this in time for kickoff — which means it will be in their heads, like it or not.

The 2006-07 Chicago Bears are a microcosm of the NFC: wholly underwhelming. That they would be the most fitting representative of this forgettable conference in the Superbowl is too poetic to deny. Football is theater for boys, after all.  And kids, seriously now can you picture the (S)Aints playing for the World’s Championship?

And since you asked, why do I eschew in-depth analysis the Colts/Pats?  Because the Pats own Peyton.  Until it is broken, this remains a football truth. I will not hear any arguments on this.  Remember naked ignorance of ANY quantitative data allowed me to remain reasonable and not dream of picking against Brady/Belichick vs the Snakebitten Bolts.  If you’re not careful, you can overthink these things sometimes.  You know the Colts will lose. I know the Colts will lose. There is no discussion.

John Ramey is a musician and broadcast journalist in Los Angeles and contributes featured pieces to larrybrownsports.com.  You can hear some of John’s music at www.myspace.com/alanbshepard