By Mike Wilkening
Cold, Hard Football Facts Oddsmaking Analyst (@mikewilkening)

You have read a lot about Tom Brady and Peyton Manning this week. Hopefully, it’s been good, and hopefully, no sportswriters were harmed in the task of trying to paint the definitive word picture of the 15th meeting of teams led by these first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterbacks.

Now, unless you’ve got a YouTube clip of writers fainting in press rooms in prose-induced agony, let’s get to the real fun stuff here in the AFC title game, in which Manning's Broncos are 5.5-point favorites over Brady's Patriots.

Let’s begin with a question you may have pondered over the years: Who’s had the better record against the spread: teams quarterbacked by Brady, or teams quarterbacked by Manning?

Well, score one for Team Tom.


Brady's record ATS

Since 2001, the Patriots are 124-87-5 (.588) against the spread in regular-season and postseason games started by Brady.

Assuming the standard 10 percent house edge, a $100 bet on every Brady start in this span would have returned a $2,830 profit.

Underdogs 11 times in 2001; underdogs 7 times in 2002; 2003 underdog five times, 4-0-1 ATS, 4-1 SU;

Broncos favored in 27 straight games; last time underdogs against San Diego.


Manning's record ATS

However, loyalty to Team Manning wouldn’t have been the worst investment strategy, either.

Since Manning entered the NFL in 1998, his teams are 137-118-6 (.536) against the number, good for a cover rate of 53.7 percent.

A flat $100 bet on each of Manning’s regular-season and playoff games would have returned a modest profit of $720, assuming the normal vigorish.

Still, profit is profit, and pro football handicapping isn’t the easiest endeavor.


Manning a money fav; Brady a killer dog

Manning's Broncos are big favorites in this game; Brady's Patriots are obviously a sizable underdog.

That situation sets up a the great money battle of the postseason: Manning's teams have thrived as favorites while Brady's Patriots have excelled the few times they're underdogs.

Consistently covering as an NFL point spread favorite in the NFL is not easy. Nevertheless, Manning’s teams have thrived in this role.

  • Manning's teams are 108-89-6 (.548) ATS as favorites during his 15 seasons on the field

A flat $100 bet on all of those favorites would leave you up $1,010 entering Sunday’s AFC title game.

Manning's Broncos, by the way, have been favored in 27 straight games, dating back to the middle of the 2012 season.

However, even the most devoted Manning supporters know to be wary of betting against the Patriots when they find themselves in the role of underdogs.

  • Brady's Patriots are a sterling 29-13-1 (.690) ATS as underdogs during his 12 seasons on the field.

This angle alone would have returned a healthy $1,470 for a flat bet of $100 in every game.

Amazingly, Brady's Patriots have been underdogs just 43 times in 12 season, and almost all of those early in the quarterback's career. The Patriots were underdogs 11 times in 2001 and seven times in 2002. 

Digging further, we find that the Patriots are 25-18 (.581) straight-up as underdogs in Brady’s starts. Yes, the point spread riches are nice, but the money-line scores are something else. And as of Wednesday afternoon, the Patriots were 2-1 on the money line (+200), per the consensus lines.  


The Brady-Manning game-by-game history

Were the Patriots to win outright against the Broncos on Sunday, it would mark the fourth time that New England had upset a Manning-led team.

The first such win came on September 21, 2001 — Brady’s first start with New England. The Colts were 13-point favorites at Gillette Stadium against the 0-2 Patriots.

Well, the Patriots romped, 44-13. Soon, Brady had displaced Drew Bledsoe. And before long, we had begun talking of Brady’s time as a starter as an “era,” which says it all.

And in the Brady era, the tussles with Manning-led teams have been among the most memorable.

Below is a handicapper’s summary of all 14 games between Manning and Brady since 2001, with point spreads and totals for all games. Brady and Manning have each been favored six times; two games were pick 'ems.

Some of the findings:

  • Underdogs have ruled: Brady and Manning are each 4-2 ATS as dogs
  • Manning is 3-3 SU when a favorite; Brady is 5-1 SU as a favorite
  • Brady's Patriots won both pick 'em games
  • Brady is 8-6 (.571) ATS vs. Manning (2-0 ATS vs. Manning's Broncos)
  • 10 of these 14 games have gone OVER

Here is a rivalry that has thrilled — and here is a rivalry that has probably made some money for dialed-in handicappers over the years.

Brady vs. Manning, ATS and O/U

DateLocationWinnerLoserSpreadATS winnerO/U
Sept. 21, 2001NEPats 44Colts 13Colts -13 BradyO 44
Oct. 11, 2001IndyPats 38Colts 17Colts -10BradyO 47
Nov. 30, 2003IndyPats 38Colts 34Colts -4BradyO 43.5
Jan. 18, 2004NEPats 24Colts 14Pats -3.5BradyU 42.5
Sept. 9, 2004NEPats 27Colts 24Pats -3.5ManningO 44
Jan. 16, 2005NEPats 20Colts 3Pick 'em BradyU 52
Nov. 7, 2005NEColts 40Pats 21Colts -4.5ManningO 48.5
Nov. 5, 2006NEColts 27Pats 20Pats -3ManningU 48.5
Jan. 21, 2007IndyColts 38Pats 34Colts -3.5ManningO 47
Nov. 4, 2007IndyPats 24Colts 20Pats -5.5ManningU 56.5
Nov. 15, 2009IndyColts 35Pats 34Colts -2.5BradyO 48.5
Nov. 21, 2010NEPats 31Colts 28Pats -4ManningO 49.5
Oct. 7, 2012NEPats 31Broncos 21Pats -6BradyO 50.5
Nov. 24, 2013NEPats 34Broncos 31Pick 'em BradyO 54.5
Jan. 19, 2014Denver  Broncos -5 O/U 56

Point spread / total data sources: Marc Lawrence point spread archives, Jim Feist point spread archives,, "The Linemakers" of Sporting News. Box score information is cited from