It's not an issue of whether you'd want a completely healthy Manning or a still-rehabilitating Brady. It's a case of whether you'd want a resilient Colts team that went 12-4 but lost its playoff opener with Manning playing all year, or a resourceful Patriots team that finished just a tick behind them at 11-5 with Brady on the field for less than 15 minutes of the season.
Ask yourself how far the Colts would have advanced last year if Manning had gone down in the opening quarter of the season. That gives you get a pretty good estimation of how much deeper the Patriots' talent pool goes. And don't forget, the Patriots and
Without Brady, New England didn't collapse, far from it. It proved once and for all that
And while I don't see either team falling off the radar screen in the AFC playoff chase this season, it's the Patriots, with a Brady who in all likelihood will return to his Pro Bowl-level play, who look the most improved. Running back
The Patriots have reloaded, and Brady will be back. Even without
However, based on the criteria we've been given, I have to go with Manning in this instance. He's fully healthy, plays an easier schedule and should have a stronger running game with the arrival of first-round pick
Picking against Brady hurts because he holds a spot on my Mount Rushmore of quarterbacks. He has new weapons in running back Fred Taylor and wideout Joey Galloway, whose presence should soften the blow of coordinator
I did not rely on statistical data to support my position because stats can be twisted to support either side. The bottom line for me is health, and that advantage goes to Manning.
The Pats will certainly miss Josh McDaniels on offense, but their receiving corps returns intact and should be even better than it was in 2007 because of their familiarity with both the offense and each other. Couple that with Belichick adding some new toys for Brady in Joey Galloway and Fred Taylor, and it is pretty clear why the Pats think they may accomplish even more in 2009 than they did in 2007.
Manning, on the other hand, lost his longtime safety valve in
The Indianapolis coaching situation is not in chaos, Manning's comments notwithstanding, and after all, this is May. Assistant head coach
Divisionally speaking, the non-Patriots AFC East was a game tougher (27-21) last season than the non-Colts AFC South (26-22), and that was with Tennessee and
The real tipping point, injury, involves severity and location. Manning's bursa sac surgery was in his plant/left leg, but oh did he look rusty in his first couple of games back. He still passed for 4,002 yards last season, didn't throw an interception in the last five games and had passer ratings of 90 or better in nine of the last 10.
Brady's torn ACL was in his plant/left leg as well, and the potential is there for too many passes off the back foot, which can translate into lost velocity and sailing throws. Mobility may be a concern. New England was 26th in sacks per pass play last season, Indianapolis third. Double advantage, and overall edge: Manning.