5 Arguments to Finally Decide the Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning Debate

  • The weapons race

    Brady and Manning are like world superpowers in a weapons race. As great as they are, they can’t do it alone. Their power is largely determined by the weapons they have around them. Unfortunately, every time Brady and Manning take the field, the playing field isn’t exactly level. In a who’s better debate between a pair of athletes in a team sport, it is an important talking point.

    The playing field might actually be the most uneven it has ever been right now. The Broncos are loaded on both sides of the ball. Manning’s top wide receiver, Demaryius Thomas, is a force on his own. He’s big, physical, and is always near the league lead in yards after catch. Julius Thomas has shown that he’s one of the top tight ends in the game, Wes Welker just flat-out knows how to get open, and Denver’s offensive line usually gives Manning all day to throw the ball.

    Brady could only dream of that. His patchwork offensive line, often featuring a tuba player (Jordan Devey), has been inconsistent to say the least this season. It means Brady is forced to make a lot of really quick passes to a crew of moving parts. Julian Edelman is a stud in the slot and Rob Gronkowski is a great tight end when he can stay on the field, but Brady hasn’t had a whole lot to work with otherwise.

    Brady had his loaded offense in 2007, when he threw for a record 50 touchdowns (23 to Randy Moss) in a 16-0 regular season. Manning topped that last season with his 55 touchdowns. Both teams lost in the Super Bowl.

    Brady often got the better of Manning during his Colts days, but it wasn’t because Brady had weapons Manning didn’t. After all, Manning had a pretty stable receiving core, including two future Hall of Fame receivers in Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. He also had backs such as Marshall Faulk and Edgerrin James. Brady’s top targets at that time were David Patten and David Givens, players who only showed their greatness with Brady.

    Now that Manning has the huge upper hand talent-wise, the pressure is on him to win because he should win.

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  • By the numbers

    Manning is a statistical machine. He recently broke Brett Favre’s record for all-time touchdown passes (510 as of Oct. 22). He broke Brady’s single-season mark for touchdown passes in 2013 and appears likely to break every quarterback record in the book.

    Taking wins out of the equation, in a side-by-side matchup between Brady and Manning, Brady can’t compete. Manning has a higher career passer rating, throws for touchdowns at a higher rate and completes passes at a higher rate. Manning also has a healthy lead in touchdown passes, 510 to 372 as of Oct. 22. It’s important to point out, though, that even though the quarterbacks are only a year apart in age (Brady is 37 and Manning is 38), Manning has played three more seasons. Brady would still have to set the world on fire and hope Manning slows to catch the touchdown passes mark, so it appears really unlikely that he’ll ever get there.

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  • Head-to-head success

    Brady made his debut during the second game of the 2001 season after Jets linebacker Mo Lewis made a crushing hit on Drew Bledsoe near the sideline. It’s an incredibly important moment in Patriots lore. Brady didn’t come in and light it up that day, however. He went 5-for-10 for 46 yards in a 10-3 loss.

    It wasn’t until his first start a week later that Patriots fans started to believe in Brady. That just happened to be against Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. Brady didn’t throw for a lot of yards (168) or even complete a touchdown pass, but he played far better than Manning, who threw three interceptions in the Colts’ 44-13 loss. It was just the beginning of Brady’s head-to-head reign over Manning.

    Brady holds the 10-5 advantage in that regard. For those of you ready to argue that Brady’s head-to-head record is mainly because his teams have played better, Brady has an even greater edge in passer rating. In 11 of their 15 matchups, Brady has held a better passer rating than Manning. That speaks volumes about what happens when they face one another because Manning has the higher career passer rating.

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  • Clutch factor

    Manning has more comeback victories (40) in the fourth quarter of games than any quarterback in NFL history. Brady (31) is tied for fourth. Manning his only come back once in the fourth quarter of a playoff game, though, and Brady has four times. For all of the talk about how great Manning is, there are still questions about his performance late in the season and in the playoffs when the temperature drops, the wind picks up, and he is pinned against the best of the best.

    In the last regular season meeting between the Patriots and Broncos, Manning threw for only 150 yards on a cold and windy night in Foxboro, Mass. Denver pounded the ball on the ground behind Knowshon Moreno in the first half and built a 24-0 lead. Brady then came out of the locker room and started carving up the Broncos in the third quarter — into the wind. He led the Patriots on four consecutive touchdown drives and added a field goal before the Broncos were able to respond. The Patriots went on to win, 34-31.

    The talk afterward was about Manning wasn’t himself in the cold, and the numbers back that up. Chris Bianchi, an ESPN radio producer, compiled some statistics and found that Manning is 2-8 when the temperature is 32 to degrees or lower and 8-13 when the temp is 40 or lower. Brady on the other hand, thrives when conditions aren’t ideal. According to ESPN, he is 24-5 in games below freezing. The road to the Super Bowl usually features poor weather conditions. That could be part of the reason Manning hasn’t gotten to the big game as often.

    Add on Brady’s playoff success, and he definitely gets the edge on clutch play.

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  • Playoff success

    Touchdown records and Most Valuable Player awards are great, but they don’t mean much without a Lombardi Trophy and some Super Bowl appearances. When determining who is better between Brady and Manning, playoff success outweighs everything else.

    Brady has had way more of it. His 18 playoff victories are the most of any quarterback in NFL history, and are seven more than the next active quarterback on the list, Manning. It might surprise some people that Manning actually has a higher quarterback rating in the playoffs than Brady because it certainly hasn’t translated to more success. Brady has eight AFC Championship Game appearances to Manning’s four. Brady has five Super Bowl appearances to Manning’s three and has three Super Bowl rings to Manning’s one.

    Manning can break every regular season record he wants, but as long as his record stays below .500 (11-12) in the playoffs and he has two less rings, many people won’t pick him over Brady.

    It’s all about the rings.

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  • Peyton Manning
  • Tom Brady
  • Tom Brady, Peyton Manning
  • Tom Brady

Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning.

Who would you rather have? That’s the question that’s going to be asked 1,712 times today before the greatest individual rivalry in sports sounds the bell for round 16. The NFL’s most accomplished passer ever, Peyton Manning, will duel the NFL’s most accomplished winner ever, Tom Brady. I’ve also been told that the rest of the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots will play, but who cares?

Today is about watching the greatest quarterbacks to ever play face-off against one another. If only Brady and Manning could take the field and spent three hours throwing balls through hoops. It would be the highest-rated program on television. They carry a mystique that very few athletes have. Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter had it. Too often fans don’t appreciate an athlete’s true greatness while the athlete is still in the spotlight. With Brady and Manning, though, people seem to get it. These guys have spent the last decade and a half dominating the league, taking down every record in the process. People have taken notice.

To top it off, their head-to-head rivalry has been unparalleled by anything we’ve ever seen in team sports. Every game they’ve ever played against one another has mattered, from the last AFC Championship Game to decide who went to the Super Bowl to any regular season matchup that determined playoff seeding. Brady and Manning’s teams are always relevant because of Brady and Manning, the only two quarterbacks to ever post a passer rating of 110 or higher in a season.

Brady versus Manning also incorporates some of the classic traits of a great rivalry. Manning was seemingly bred into the monster he is, the son of an NFL quarterback who was drafted No. 1 overall. Brady defied the odds to make it to the top. He didn’t start for his college team (Michigan) over Drew Henson — yeah, Drew Henson — and was drafted 199th overall. Since Manning went to Denver, the East-West connection was added. It’s not exactly Biggie and Tupac East-West, but pinning these guys on opposite sides of the country didn’t hurt. Lastly, their games are almost always memorable and close.

So, who’s better? There isn’t a wrong answer. But I’ll show you the facts and let you decide. Once the game starts, just do yourself a favor and don’t get too caught up in the who’s better than who debate. Take a moment to appreciate the greatness that’s in front of you. Here are 5 Arguments to Finally Decide the Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning Debate.

Follow Brett on Twitter at @bpoirierNB

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