Hold onto your butts! Once again it will be Tom Brady up against his long-time AFC rival Peyton Manning. Wouldn't you know it? A trip to the Super Bowl is on the line. The two men will meet when the Denver Broncos host the New England Patriots on Sunday during the AFC Conference Championship game.
The hype surrounding the Brady vs. Manning meeting is unavoidable. KRIS-TV notes that as of next week, the rivalry will have produced a 17th meeting. Of the two, Brady seems to be enjoying the most success, with his team beating Manning's in 11 of 16 previous meetings. However, most of those successes came during regular season play.
In the post-season, Tom and Peyton are 2-2.
Brady vs. Manning XVII See you Championship Sunday. #NFLPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/o7NB9eBTJQThere is also a possible psychological advantage that Peyton Manning might enjoy. The Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel November 29, the Broncos managed to overcome a two-touchdown deficit to beat the Patriots in overtime. It's important to note that the team was able to do this without the leadership of Peyton Manning. The Denver team certainly wasn't intimidated at home by the Patriots.
— NFL (@NFL) January 18, 2016
There may be less pressure on Manning to prove himself if his presence isn't even a deciding factor as to whether or not the Broncos can win over the defending Super Bowl champions.
On the other hand...Manning has struggled with injury throughout the season. He suffered a serious foot injury that forced him to miss six games. Peyton was actually doubtful for post-regular season play. However, he stepped in (as a backup quarterback no less) against the San Diego Chargers and help guide the team to victory.
Tom Brady won't have home field and advantage, and Peyton Manning is probably too old to be intimidated at this stage. Still, that doesn't mean he doesn't have a couple of things working in his favor.
This will be the 12th time in the past 13 years that the AFC Super Bowl QB will be either Brady/Manning/Big Ben. pic.twitter.com/6UZWGIbfKtPerhaps the most important factor going into the AFC game is Brady's health. Despite an injury scare, the Patriots seem confident that Tom will be front and center next week. Of the two quarterbacks, Tom Brady has certainly been the most healthy.
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) January 18, 2016
In fact, of the two, it's been noted that Brady feels far more comfortable throwing the football. There's concern that Manning is no longer able to keep up with his long time rival, and so next week's game will hardly be a "shoot out." If the Patriots offense keeps Tom well sheltered, he may be able to score points that Manning will be physically unable to match.
There's certainly a reason to be concerned as a Broncos fan. Tonight, much of the game's points came by way of a field goal. It was, in fact a field goal that ultimately decided the Denver Broncos' win over the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers.
COMING SOON: BRADY vs. MANNING The @Broncos defeat the @Steelers to advance to the AFC Championship! #PITvsDEN pic.twitter.com/gea3CivA2qYou could say that Peyton Manning helped lead the Broncos to a win with savvy and experience, but it's possible it won't be enough next week.
— NFL (@NFLCanada) January 18, 2016
When asked by reporters how "Brady-Manning XVII" and how he felt, Manning answered with "It'll be the Broncos vs. the Patriots." He later added that he'd "be talking about them on Wednesday." For tonight, the team would just enjoy the victory and another trip to the AFC title game.
Although Peyton would prefer to hold off speculating about the conference game, speculation is inevitable since many are openly wondering if it will prove to be the final chapter in their legendary rivalry. After all, this is Peyton's 18th season as a professional quarterback -- and any fan of Manning's knows the number is a very important one. He's also just shy of 40. For that matter, 38-year-old Brady isn't too far from weighing retirement himself.
If this is indeed to be the last time we see Peyton Manning and Tom Brady head-to-head, we can only hope that this decisive game is a memorable one.
[Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images]