In fact, coaches, players, and a number of brethren in the media seem to be going out of their way to point out intangibles like kicking games, defenses and running games -- or lack thereof.
But let's get real. This one is about the greatest quarterbacking rivalry in modern football history, if not all-time history. Manning, Brady. Brady, Manning.
This one is about a pair of quarterbacks whose talents and records are so similar it is mind-boggling. Brady and Manning lead teams with identical 33-7 records since 2007. Despite no longer playing in the same division, Manning and Brady have met each other on the field eight times since 2001 -- usually with playoff implications. Manning passed for 49 touchdowns in 2004. Brady broke that record with 50 in 2007. Brady posted the second-highest passer rating in NFL history in 2007, at 117.2. The highest rating remains Manning's 121.4 in 2004. Manning has won an absolutely sick 132 of 199 career starts (66.3 percent). Brady has won even more, 107 of 136 starts (78.7 percent).
Put the impact of these two all-time greats and the significance of this rivalry this way: Yankees-Red Sox is widely considered the greatest rivalry in sports. Yet compared to even the highest Yankees-Red Sox playoff television ratings, Sunday's Colts-Patriots game should draw between 8 million to 12 million more viewers, based on recent numbers.
Gone from the Patriots are the likes of
When the Colts' offense is on the field, it's safe to say that if impact rookies
Blitzing Brady and Manning is usually fruitless. The good news for both defensive coordinators, however, is that their D-linemen have been having a lot of success.
The Patriots haven't had near as many sacks as the Colts, but they keep pressure on the quarterback, force turnovers and are stingy in the red zone.
The Colts likely will not go undefeated this year. Sooner or later, the lack of a big-time running game and those key injuries on the defense will catch up to them. But it won't be this week. The Colts may not have overwhelmed their last two opponents, winning by a combined seven points against the 49ers and Texans. And Brady has responded in a huge way since early-season sluggishness. But Manning is having maybe his best season ever, which is saying something. A loss here and the Patriots or some other AFC team could steal away home-field advantage from Indy. It won't happen. Manning won't let it.