COMMENTARY | Context in sports can be a funny thing.
In an ESPN poll posted the day after the Broncos win over the Ravens, 50 percent of America voted that Peyton Manning was the best quarterback in the league. Listed along side him were the options "Tom Brady," "Aaron Rodgers," and "other."
Ask that question a day before Manning's seven-touchdown performance and Aaron Rodgers probably wins that poll.
Go back even further - say, Feb. 6, 2012 - and the conversation of whether Peyton is even better than his own brother Eli becomes the center of the debate. Eli, people said, is more clutch than Peyton and would be the better quarterback going forward.
[It's game time! Play fantasy football from Yahoo Sports]So as the Broncos and Giants prepare to face each other this Sunday, the debate on who is the better Manning brother comes up once again. The Manning Bowl, or perhaps the "Football On Your Phone Bowl" as one of my readers commented, puts the shift back on Peyton vs. Eli.
And yes, Peyton is still the better quarterback.
There are many different ways that fans and pundits approach this topic . There's the "head-to-head" theory that people commonly use for Peyton vs. Brady.
In two previous meetings, the older quarterback has taken each game. Peyton has totaled 531 yards for four touchdowns and one interception, compared to Eli's 408 yards for four touchdowns and two interceptions.
However, considering that the Manning Bowl happens a lot less often than Peyton vs. Brady, it's not exactly fair. So much can change every four or so years that the brothers face off, it's not an accurate comparison. In 2006, the first meeting between the two, Peyton was in the heart of his prime while Eli was three years into his career.
There's also the matter of stats, which doesn't tell the whole story. Peyton, admittedly, has had a better supporting cast of receivers and tight ends than Eli. Eli, and Giants history in general, has relied more on the running game until recently. Comparing statistics, Peyton generally trumps Eli in every area except turnovers.
[Week 2 injury report: Falcons receivers hit with injury bug]One area that people like to bring up the most, and where this debate actually becomes heated, is with playoff wins. Eli, his supporters say, is more clutch than Peyton.
The evidence? Eli has two Super Bowl rings compared to Peyton's one. Eli's total record in playoff games is 8-3 (72 percent) with Peyton being 9-11 (45 percent) in the postseason.
The notion that Eli having a better winning percentage makes him a better playoff performer is just as misleading as judging this debate on head-to-head or regular season statistics.
Take a look at Player A and Player B's two performances in Super Bowls.
Player A: 580 yards, going 56-83 on passing attempts (67.4 percent), 6.9 yards per attempt, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Player B: 551 yards, going 59-74 on passing attempts (66.2 percent), 7.44 yards per attempt, three touchdowns and one interception,
If you thought player B was Peyton because he has less yards and a lower completion percentage, then you would be wrong. Those numbers belong to Eli, which are actually very impressive as well.
The two stat lines are in fact pretty similar, except for Peyton's extra interception (which ended up costing the 2009 Super Bowl against the Saints). The notion that Eli automatically performs better in the playoffs is skewered considering Eli hasn't had as many appearances in the playoffs, which can distort numbers.
What this debate does come down to, however, is intelligence.
[Watch: Is it time to shop Michael Vick?]Peyton is a master of the game. The way he is able to execute his offense and get the most out of his players makes him a better overall quarterback than Eli. While Eli might perform better when under pressure, it's Peyton who can accurately dissect a defense. It's why he's held up better in age than many other quarterbacks, even rival Tom Brady.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has two Super Bowl victories, is 10-4 in the playoffs and has three playoff game-winning drives (the same as Eli). Yet no one considers Roethlisberger to be a better quarterback than Peyton. Why? Because even at 37-years old, Peyton Manning remains the model example of a franchise quarterback.
Eli is a very special player in his own-right and a top ten quarterback in the NFL. When it comes to facing his brother, he'll always been seen as number two.
Matthew Paras is a Journalism Major at DePaul University. He writes for multiple outlets, including Maxboxing.com, Operationsports.com, and DePaul's student newspaper, The DePaulia. He can be reached by email at Mparas1432@gmail.com or on twitter @Matthew_Paras. He currently resides in Chicago, but lived in Littleton, Colo. for seven years.
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