Manning vs. Manning For The Last Time?
On Sunday, Eli Manning and Peyton Manning will stand on opposite sidelines for the third and most likely final time in their NFL careers. The way the NFL schedule is set up, the Giants are not slated to meet the Denver Broncos again until 2017 when Peyton Manning will be 41 years old. Will he still be around in 2017, slinging heat-seeking missiles all over the field? And even if he is around, will he still be a Denver Bronco?
Of course, there's no way of telling whether or not the elder Manning's career will live to see another Manning Bowl matchup, but if his performance in Week 1 against Baltimore was any indication, perhaps he has a little more left in the tank than we give him credit for. Either way, most of us will go into Sunday's matchup expecting that it will be the last meeting between the two brothers.
When they first met back in the 2006 season opener, they made history by becoming the first pair of brothers who both played quarterback to face each other in a regular season game. Back then, Peyton was the big man on campus with two league MVP awards already under his belt. Eli was the newcomer — a fresh-faced, young star-in-the-making who was coming off of a division title in 2005 and ready to begin his second full season in the league.
That first game was a special one to watch. Eli managed to hold his own for most of the night, but in the end, it was the older, wiser and more experienced brother who would end up on the winning side, pulling it out in the fourth quarter just as we all expected he would. Peyton and the Colts would go on to win the Super Bowl that season, but his younger brother would follow close behind. Soon enough, he would be the one orchestrating late-game heroics as we all expected he would.
After the 2007 season, Eli "Peyton's Younger Brother" Manning would transform into Eli "Super Bowl MVP" Manning right before our very eyes, and the transformation was one that seemed to happen overnight — whereas it felt like we waited a lifetime for Peyton to finally crest that hill and win his first ring. Since that season, the two Manning brothers would become almost mirror images of each other, in a way. Where Peyton is primarily known for his consistency, putting up borderline impossible stats and dominating the regular season while falling just short of postseason glory, Eli has been known for almost the opposite: frustratingly inconsistent at times and slightly above-average numbers, but an uncanny knack of playing the hero when his team needs it the most and carrying them to yet another improbable Super Bowl title.
At the end of the day, it won't really matter who was the better of the two. There certainly are arguments to be made for both: Peyton has set records at the quarterback position that may never be broken, and has been unquestionably one of the greatest quarterbacks the game has ever seen; Eli has made his mark in other ways, but his two rings stand as a testament to his unflappable nature and his remarkable stoicism in the face of adversity.
What does matter, though, is that both Manning brothers are among the best quarterbacks in the league right now, and they'll be going head-to-head, as adversaries and as brothers, one more time on Sunday. With Peyton 1-0 and coming off of a nearly flawless Week 1 performance and Eli 0-1 coming off of a shaky and mistake-filled Week 1 performance, it's clear who the pressure will be on.
While Peyton may have the bigger arsenal of weapons at his disposal, Eli has the will to overcome just about anything. On Sunday, these two forces will collide on a football field for perhaps the last time. Brother vs. brother, just like they used to do it in their backyard in Louisiana.