Joe: First, let me put this out there: this debate is over if Manning loses at home to Brady and the Patriots on Sunday. The debate already skews in Brady’s favor in many different ways, but an AFC Championship Game victory over Brady and another Super Bowl on Manning’s resume makes it much more of a toss up. Statistically, Manning has been the superior player throughout his career, but Brady’s three Super Bowls to Manning’s one, plus their head-to-head results, speak louder than passing stats.
Kevin: I hate to be the guy that judges everything based on wins and losses, but I don’t think Manning is on Brady’s level even if he wins this weekend. Frankly, Denver SHOULD win this weekend at home and given the huge talent gap between these teams. But that’s what’s made Brady and the Patriots so special. Brady and Bill Belichick adapt every year and keep finding ways to win. The Patriots became a running team this year because they had to, but that’s no knock on Brady. It was necessary for the team to reach double-digit wins for the 11th straight time. Peyton is great, but he’s had issues overcoming the Colts’ suspect defense in the past and he’s struggled in the postseason for much of his career. Meanwhile Brady has three rings, and he’s been to two other Super Bowls, both of which could easily have gone New England’s way.
Joe: I don’t necessarily buy into the huge talent gap between the teams. Denver's record was only one game better and the Broncos already lost to New England this season. Brady can chat up the underdog stuff all he wants, but most people expect New England to win this game. Don’t forget the Patriots were a questionable pass interference call against Carolina and a questionable field goal call against the Jets from being a 14-2 team. The Broncos are ravaged by injuries just like the Patriots, and they will be without Von Miller and top corner Chris Harris for this game. Champ Bailey missed the bulk of the season and the Broncos' offensive line has been consistently beat up, never mind the time missed by Wes Welker and Julius Thomas. New England has been incredibly impressive as well, but Brady has the benefit of having arguably the greatest coach in NFL history on the sideline.
Remember, Manning missed one season and his team went 2-14. Brady missed one season and his team went 11-5 with MATT CASSEL! There were plenty of times that Manning led substandard Indianapolis teams to double-digit wins and the playoffs. Go look at the roster of the team he got into the 2010 playoffs...that team wins two-to-four games with anybody else under center.
Kevin: Really? I don't think there's any doubt that every coach in the league would take FOUR Broncos receivers (Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker and Julius Thomas) over anyone the Pats have healthy right now. Knowshon Moreno is also better than any back the Pats have. And if you want to talk about injuries, the Patriots have lost Rob Gronkowski, Vince Wilfork, Brandon Spikes, Tommy Kelly, Sebastian Vollmer and Jerod Mayo. I think the fact that they were so close to being 14-2 is a testament to how ridiculously well coached this team is, and to Brady and Belichick’s ability to persevere. You’re right that Belichick is a huge asset for Brady, but remember that Belichick was nothing before Brady arrived. Too many people forget those early years in Cleveland and the beginning of Belichick's career in New England. Belichick made Brady, but Brady also made Belichick. I have no explanation for that Cassel year, but how do you think Cassel would have done in the playoffs? Brady is 18-7 in the playoffs while Manning is just 10-11. Both guys have rolled through the regular season, but only one has consistently gotten it done when the stakes are raised.
Joe: “Belichick made Brady, but Brady also made Belichick.” That sounds like the chicken or the egg argument. You're also underestimating Julian Edelman, who has been than Welker week in and week out this season and has been comparable to Decker. Danny Amendola is no slouch either when he's healthy. LeGarrette Blount would also likely dispute your argument fresh off his 167-yard, four-touchdown performance - and don’t discount the talent and versatility of Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen. Enough complimenting the Patriots though, I’m starting to feel nauseous...the point is New England has plenty of talent on offense.
The playoff record is hard to argue against. HOWEVER, while I hate to be “that” guy, pre-Spygate Brady was 12-2 in the playoffs. Post-Spygate? 6-5, with all the losses coming to teams the Patriots were heavy favorites against. If Manning can win this week and in New Jersey, his playoff record will be over .500 and he'll have locked up two Super Bowls, evening up this part of the debate much more. Statistically, Manning destroys Brady. Remember - Manning threw only 31 more passes than Brady this season, but he had 30 more touchdown passes and one less interception...whoa.
Kevin: Classic...of course the Jets fan goes to the Spygate argument. You can argue all you want, but I’d rather have the proven winner, and Manning can’t hold a candle to Brady in that department. And if you really want to go the statistics route - Manning's career stats only looks better because he’s thrown the ball so much more. I’d expect him to have significantly more yards and touchdowns given that he’s thrown 1,866 more passes than Brady. Brady has thrown for TDs on 5.4% of his pass attempts compared to 5.8% from Manning, but Manning has thrown interceptions on 2.5% of his attempts compared to 2% from Brady. If you really want to look at it objectively, their QB ratings are very, very close: Manning’s at 97.2 and Brady is at 95.7. And for me, Brady’s playoff numbers more than make up the difference.
Joe: Well we know Brady isn’t a “proven winner” because he lost to a very average quarterback twice in the Super Bowl (the same guy who threw 30 INTs this season!).
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