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The Armchair Quarterback's Guide To The NFL Playoffs

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The Armchair Quarterback’s Take Of The Week

Peyton Manning Needs To Win This Weekend More Than Tom Brady Does

This Sunday two of the greatest quarterbacks of this (or any) generation will go head to head with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. It will actually be the 15th time that Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have gone head to head. In the past, Brady has traditionally gotten the best of Manning, holding a 10-4 advantage in their previous meetings. However, that’s not the number that will haunt Peyton Manning when the two are compared to one another for the rest of eternity. That number is one. As in the number of Super Bowl wins that Manning has. While there are countless quarterbacks that would love to have “just one” Super Bowl win, it’s different when you are discussed as a candidate for greatest QB of all time.

This would only become more prevalent if Brady and the Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl. That would give Brady a 4-1 advantage where it matters most, Super Bowl rings. Manning has heard all of this before. “He can’t win in the playoffs!” “He can’t win the big one!” “He can’t beat the Patriots!” “He can’t play outside in cold weather!” I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

Dan Marino is widely considered the greatest QB to never win a Super Bowl, and yet he doesn’t seem to get his position in history questioned as much as Manning does, despite the fact that Manning HAS won a Super Bowl and continues to rewrite the NFL record books. You often hear Manning referred to as the greatest “regular season” QB of all time. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, those saying it aren’t as much pointing out his regular season greatness (which is unquestioned), as they are qualifying his greatness as different than that of the Joe Montanas and Tom Bradys that were both great and won multiple Super Bowls.

You often hear that their are “tiers” of Hall of Fame players. That while everyone in the Hall are great and deserving of the honor, some first ballet guys are just on another level. Curtis Martin and Thurman Thomas are both in the Hall of Fame (and rightfully so), but as great as they were, guys like Jim Brown and Walter Payton are just on a higher level.

I believe that the football community as a whole will continue to keep Peyton Manning one tier below the best of the best if he doesn’t win another Super Bowl. Is that fair? I don’t know. Should Peyton Manning care if fans and sports writers continue to mentally rank him in the second tier of greatest QBs of all time? Probably not, but knowing Manning’s legendary work ethic and how much he hates to lose, I’m guessing that deep down it does bother him and that he does want to silence those critics in the worst way.

Tom Brady, on the other hand, is pretty much already there. Brady has fantastic numbers, three Super Bowl rings, and has been seen on many of his teams as a player that almost “overachieved” given the level of talent on the roster around him. While there is an element of truth to this, I think this narrative sometimes gets overplayed. Tom Brady had an incredibly talented team that went 16-0 and featured Randy Moss and Wes Welker in their primes and that team didn’t win a Super Bowl. Does that mean that Brady choked in the playoffs like Manning is accused of? That team was talented enough to win 11 games without Brady the next season. On the other hand, Manning’s final Colts team was weak enough that when he went out with his neck injury they were the worst team in football. Wouldn’t that qualify him as “overachieving” the same way we like to credit Brady?

That doesn’t fit the narrative though, so we tend to overlook it. This year is no different. If Manning wins on Sunday it will be because he was supposed to. The Patriots are injury riddled and Manning has an unstoppable collection of weapons around him. If Brady wins, it will either be sold as Manning choking again or as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick once again leading a “ragtag group of misfits” into the Super Bowl. Thus growing their legends even greater.

Fair or not, all the pressure in this game is squarely on Manning’s shoulders. I’m not saying that Brady doesn’t want to win just as much as Peyton, just that he doesn’t have the pressure of his reputation and legacy riding on the game.

I don’t know if that pressure will have an effect on how Peyton Manning plays, but I know I can’t wait to watch and find out.

Now on to the Armchair QB predictions for the conference championship games……

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