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Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning XV

Posted by David Sabino  January 14, 2014 02:49 PM

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Two of the greatest passers in NFL history square off for a 15th time on Sunday, however much of what they've done in the rivalry is ancient history.

The AFC Championship Game to be played on Sunday in Denver is being widely billed as Brady-Manning XV, and the illustrious careers of the two greatest quarterbacks of this generation are being diced and sliced into easily digestible, yet for these purposes, largely unenlightening morsels. The last I checked, very little that Manning did in Indianapolis applies to his post-neck surgery tenure in Denver, and Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark aren’t going to be wearing a snorting horse on their helmets Sunday. On the Patriots side, the numbers that Tom Brady put up over the years against the older of the throwing Manning brothers were aided greatly by the presence of Randy Moss, Wes Welker and a bevy of former Pats who are much more likely to appear on sports call-in shows than on a gridiron these days.

While one day we’ll dissect the mountains of career numbers these men will have topped off to place them accordingly on the list of alltime greatest signalcallers. That will give their complete bodies of work the retrospective they deserve in terms of Hall of Fame, and more importantly barroom arguments with people from other generations. However for the here and now, its all about this season, this game, this championship waiting to be won.

You may bill it as the greatest individual rivalry in the sport with each man trying to cement their legacies, but since they won't be on the field at the same time, it really is a case of the NFL’s single-season passing leader looking to validate all of the numbers, and for an old Super-Bowl-tested warhorse a chance to close out a season in which seemingly everything was stacked against him. Both wil play against defenses decimated by injuries and both have the same goal as every NFL player of the modern age, the Lombardi Trophy.

So here’s how Manning, the odds-on favorite to win NFL-MVP honors, stacks up against Brady, the never-say-die, field general extraordinaire, based solely on their 2013 seasons. The numbers greatly favor Manning but that's all part of the 2013 script. In November during "Manning-Brady XIV" at Gillette Stadium both men orchestrated phenomenal halves of football, yet it was Manning's lowest output of the season. We can only hope for a similarly thrilling show this time around. But also keep in mind they are simply the leaders of their teams. They’ll also be the first to tell you that individuals don’t win championships.

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Stats Driven is powered by David Sabino, who over the last two decades has been a source of statistical analysis on the pages of Sports Illustrated, New York Times, and Chicago Tribune. David has written about all seven recent Boston-area championships for Sports Illustrated Presents commemorative issues, was the creator of such long time features as SI’s Player Value Ranking, NBA Player Rating and long running fantasy football and baseball columns.

He has also authored or made contributions to many books, including the Sports Illustrated’s 100 Fenway: A Fascinating First Century.

Now living in Marblehead, he’s focusing his attention on the Boston sports scene, specifically delving into the numbers affecting the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins, with the goal of informing and entertaining real fans. You can follow him on Twitter at @SabinoSports.

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