What's In a Rivalry? 

Every professional sport has had it's share of great rivalries.

Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier's rivalry defined the sport of boxing in the 1970's, and Arturo Gatti and Mickey Ward carried that torch into the 21st century.

Larry Bird and Magic Johnson's rivalry quite possibly saved the NBA from extintion in the early 1980's, giving way to Michael Jordan versus Clyde Drexler and Karl Malone.

Baseball had Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio followed by Wille Mays and Mickey Mantle.

Hockey had Gordie how and Bobby Orr before there was Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemeiux.

Golf had Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer followed by Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Tennis  Martina Navratalova and Chris Everett, Pete Sampras and Andre Aggasi, and now Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. 

But what about the NFL? The definition of a team sport, football is known for storied rivalries such as the Chicago Bears versus the Green Bay Packers, The Oakland Raiders versus the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the San Francisco 49ers versus the Dallas Cowboys.

The list of teams that don't play well with each other is a long one, as most franchises and their fans have at least one or two rivals that they wouldn't piss on if they were on fire, so to speak. 

Individually, although there have been some great offense versus defense battles such as Jim Brown and Sam Huff, Ray Lewis and Eddie George, and recently Randy Moss and Darelle Revis, the focus always comes back to the quarterbacks. Some of the best in the modern era include Bart Starr and Johnny Unitas, Roger Staubach and Terry Bradshaw, Dan Marino and Jim Kelly, as well as Steve Young and Troy Aikman. 

We're sure we're ommitting a few more great ones, but this isn't a history lesson.

The aforementioned quarterback rivalries between Hall of Famers include some of the most memorable contests the game has ever seen. Conference and NFL Championships were decided as a direct result from the outcomes of these games. Great storylines on and off the field fueled these showdowns that we still speak of reverently today. 

All of the above mentioned rivalries are unique and special in their own way, just like the kid on your little league team who got a trophy too despite chasing butterflies in right field and striking out 90 percent of the time.

However, somebody has to be the best, and we're here to tell you that the NFL has never seen a rivalry greater than the one that has unfolded before our eyes over the last dozen NFL seasons between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. 

It's not only the greatest QB rivalry of all time, it's one that clearly in its later years. Brady is 36. Manning is 37. They're old men by the standards of pro football.

We intend to enjoy every second of the rivalry this season, and chronicle its ebbs and flows each week here at CHFF. After all, any week could be the rivalry's last. It's a violent sport. And each player has already lost an entire season to injury.

Since Tom Brady took the reins (and began the reign) of the New England Patriots during the 2001 season, he has become the definition of elite on an individual and team level. Two league MVP awards, the NFL single-season TD record (50) and three Super Bowl titles in a four year span and five appearances in the big game put Brady in rarified air among the NFL's greatest signal callers.  

Take into account he was drafted 199th overall in 2000 and you've got your Hollywood script with no editing required.

Peyton Manning's path to Mount Rushmore has been a little different. The second son of Archie was on the radar even before he set a gajillion records at Tennessee and became the first overall draft pick in the 1998 draft by the Indianapolis Colts.

Manning has started every game he's been on the active roster since then and will likely own just about every major career passing record when he retires. Manning has won an unprecedented four league MVP awards but has only reached the Super Bowl once, a 2006 victory of the Rex Grossman-led Chicago Bears.

Known as a choke-artist in big games going back to his days as a Volunteer when he could never beat the Florida Gators, Manning will likely need to hoist the Lombardi Trophy at least one more time in his career to overcome that stigma. 

Brady and Manning have faced each other 13 teams in the regular season and the playoffs, with at least one more on the schedule in 2013 when the Manning's Denver Broncos visit Foxborough for a pre-Thanksgiving showdown with Brady's Patriots on November 24th. Brady used Manning as a punching bag early in the rivalry, winning the first six meetings, but Manning owns a 4-3 advantage since 2005 including an epic win in the 2006 AFC title game.

Let's take a closer look at how the two living legends stack up against each other. 


 Tale of the Tape


BRADY366'4"225Michigan2000 (199)5/32228
MANNING376'5"230Tennessee1998 (1)1/114612


As far as heavyweight fights go, Brady and Manning match up quite well. Manning is of slightly bigger build but has more miles on him. Brady has the post-season hardware while Manning is the king of the regular season. Both have the intangibles as well; work ethic, demand for accountability, intelligence and leadership that makes teammates on both sides of the ball play to their potential, even if the motive is sometimes fear-driven. 



Now that we've made it through the weigh-in without a brawl between entourages, it's time to ring the bell and see who takes home the CHFF World Football Federation Title Belt. We are going to examine both players in a variety of rounds (statistical categories) and see how the bout is scored at the end. Regular season numbers, playoff numbers, and head to head performances will all be considered. And remember, there are still punches to be thrown by both sides, so we'll keep tabs on how the final rounds unfold. Now keep it clean and come out passing! 


Regular Season

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have been consistently prolific in the regular season during their careers. Brady's 2007 campaign and Manning's 2004 campaign are widely regarded as two of the best quarterback seasons in NFL History. Manning broke Dan Marino's long standing touchdown record of 48 by one TD that season. Three years later, Brady became the first (and only) quarterback to throw 50 TD's in a season and that record still stands despite the drastic increase in passing numbers across the board in today's NFL. 

Consider this - for the first 75 years of the NFL (1920-1994) there were only five seasons in which a quarterback threw for at least 4,00 yards and 30 TD's while maintaining at least a 90.0 Passer Rating. Brian Sipe of the Cincinnati Bengals was the first to do so in 1980, and Dan Marino did so twice in 1984 and 1986.

In the 18 seasons since then, beginning in 1995, there have been a whopping 36 such gold-standard seasons by NFL quarterbacks. Nobody has achieved this high-water mark more than Peyton Manning, who holds seven such seasons in his feather cap entering 2013. Tom Brady has done so three times but Brady belongs to the 5,000 yard club while Manning has yet to reach that plateau. 

Let's take a quick look at Brady and Manning's single game and single season highs for comparison's sake: 


*Entering 2013 Season

There aren't a lot of variances when we look at the single game highs for both quarterbacks. Manning has never eclipsed 500 yards in a game or thrown a pass for 90+ yards. Brady has never thrown more than four interceptions in a game, but he has reached that number on six different occasions. Manning had the one horrendous game back in 2007 against the San Diego Chargers where he coughed it up six times, and his Indianapolis Colts only lost by two points. Including that game, Manning has only thrown four or more interceptions in a game a total of four times. 



Broadening the scale, here are each player's best single-season numbers: 



Depsite having more regular season accolades, Manning gets trumped in almost every category shown above except for attempts and completions. Both players have teams that were designed around their ability to pass the ball, so it's no surprise that these numbers are at or near the top of the list historically. Despite consistently having a less talented recieving corps around him, Brady enters 2013 with clearly better single season numbers than Manning. 



Now let's take it one step further, looking at each player's regular season totals over the course of their careers. Since Manning has played in almost three season's worth of games more than Brady, we're going to omit most cumulative stats like total ATT/COMP or yards and focus on per game averages here:


BRADY177136.77733.721.563.7%7.5253.11.950.932.7 : 196.4
MANNING224154.68834.822.765.2%7.6265.61.890.692.1 : 196.0


Once again, Brady and Manning are very comparable when looking at most statistics, but there are a couple that tip the scales Brady's way once again. Manning has more attempts, completions, and yards per attempt and game as well as a slightly higher completion percentage, but Brady has a significantly higher winning percentage to go along with higher touchdown and lower interception averages.

As Brady's legendary coach, Bill Belichick, once said: "Stats are for losers", even though his quarteback can compile them with the best. All Brady seemingly does is win (unless it's against the Giants in the Super Bowl). Manning, despite having more regular season wins than any quarterback in history not named Favre, has managed just 18 more wins than Brady in 47 more games. We won't even talk about the post-season yet. Brady gets the slight edge here once again as his efficiency numbers top Manning in every category listed above. 



 Now let's take a look at some quarterback benchmarks and see how they stack up:



 *Entering 2013 Season

In addition to being the NFL's only four-time League MVP and having the most Pro-Bowl selections in the history of the position, Peyton Manning has racked up quite a few other milestones along the way. Manning is the NFL's career leader in fourth quarter comebacks (Sorry, John Elway) and needs three more game-winning drives to surpass Dan Marino. Manning's 12 seasons of passing for 4,000 yards are more are easily the most in NFL history, with his closest competitor, Drew Brees, having done it seven times thus far. 



Post Season

So far, we've taken a look at Tom Brady and Peyton Manning and compared their regular season statistics. Despite Manning's sustained excellence, Brady's single game and single season marks are higher in most cases. Now it's time to take a look at how each future first-ballot Hall of Famer performs in the crucial games that take place in January and (if you're good enough) February. 


BRADY2417.708372362.3%6.71 247.9 1.75 0.92 1.9 : 187.4
MANNING209.45038.12463.2%7.46 283.91.60  1.051.5 : 1 88.4


Once again, Manning's stat line holds up fairly well against Brady's, but that pesky Winning Percentage seems to elude him. Tom Brady is the NFL's all time leader in post-season wins, yet if you were to ask him he would tell you he's more dissapointed in the last two losses at the hands of the New York Giants than any of the 17 wins. 

Manning was widely regarded as a choke-artist (like his current boss, John Elway) before winning the big game against the Rex Grossman-led Chicago Bears at the end of the 2006 season. His most recent playoff performance against Baltimore last year has brought all those Heimlick-inducing demons right back to the surface.  

Furthermore, in the three times these two have faced each other in the post-season the winner has subsequently gone on to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. 



 Head to Head

 As we march towards the November 24th showdown in Foxboro between these two legends in what will be their 11th regular season meeting (14th overall), let's take a look at the history between the two when they face off from opposing sidelines. 

The first meeting between Brady and Manning came in just the second career start for Brady after he replaced the injured Drew Bledsoe early in the 2001 season. The Patriots throttled the Colts 44-13 in Foxboro thanks in part to three Manning interceptions. Brady was less than spectacular that day, going 13-23 for 168 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions, but as he would do in their first six regular season meetings, Brady and his Patriots came away with a win. 

Overall, Brady boasts a 9-4 regular season record and is 11-5 overall against Manning, with all but one of those meetings occuring when Peyton had a horseshoe, not a horse's face, on the side of his helmet. Peyton's new team, the Denver Broncos, came to Foxboro last season and dug themselves into a first half hole that they couldn't overcome as Brady continued his recent dominance over the Donkeys. 

Here's the rundown of all their head to head matchups: 

9/30/2001132316800@NE - 44 IND - 13203419613
10/21/2001162020230NE - 38 @IND - 17223433510
11/30/2003263523622NE - 38 @IND - 34294827841
1/18/2004*223723711@NE - 24 IND - 14234723714
9/9/2004263833531@NE - 27 IND - 24162925621
1/16/2005*182714410@NE -20 IND - 3274223801
11/7/2005223326530@NE - 21 IND - 40283732131
11/5/2006203520104@NE - 20 IND - 27203632621
1/21/2007*213423211NE -34 @IND - 38274734911
11/4/2007213225532NE - 24 @IND - 20162722511
11/15/2009294237531NE - 34 @IND - 35284432742
11/21/2011192518620@NE - 31 IND - 24385239643
10/7/2012233122310@NE - 31 DEN - 21314433730
TOTALS2764123,05923129 - 43255213,8212719

* Denotes Playoff Game

Taking a look at this list it is clear to see that there isn't always a direct correlation between the quarterback's individual performance and the result of the game. This can be credited to the other 21 players (plus kickers) that, oh by the way, do often have an impact on the game.

 Manning has eclipsed 300 yards on seven occasions but only won four of those games. Brady has thrown for three touchdowns in five of the contests, but dropped two.

One stat that does hold true is throwing three or more interceptions. It's only happened three times in the series (Manning twice), but neither quarterback was able to overcome the givaways.

The final stat lines in just 13 games against each other show each has thrown for over 20 touchdowns and 3,000 yards, not too shabby considering just how familiar the players (and teams) are with each other.


2013 Week 1

As the 2013 season is now underway, let's take a look at each player's Week 1 performances. 

Peyton Manning opened the season against the defending Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens and had a night for the ages. Manning went 27-42 for 462 yards and 7 TDs  (Yes, SEVEN) en route to the Denver Broncos convincing 49-27 revenge-dripped victory. Manning set a career high and tied the NFL record with his seven scoring tosses and missed his career high in yardage by just 10 yards. 

If the debut of the Broncos' new look offense is any indication, Manning could set fire to the record books throughout his 2013 campaign as he gets used to Tom Brady's favorite old target, Wes Welker (9 REC, 67 Yds, 2 TDs). The Broncos travel to New York to face the Giants in Manning Bowl III in Week 2 with the hopes of returning to MetLife Stadium again in February. 

Tom Brady, on the other hand, had a less than impressive regular season debut with his new look offense as the New England Patriots needed a last-second field goal to clip the Buffalo Bills 23-21. Brady began 2013 without his top five leading recievers from last season (Welker, Gronkowski, Hernandez, Lloyd, Woodhead) but was able to connect with new hood-ornament Danny Amendola 10 times for 104 yards. Brady finished 29/52 for 288 yards with 2 TDs & 1 INT on the day. 

In the Statistical Miracle of Week 1, Brady's Patriots were able to get the win despite having a Real Quarterback Rating Differential of -40.39. Teams that were -40 or worse in this groundbreaking CHFF statistic were 1-80 in the 2012 season. Yes, 1-80, or if you like decimals, a winning percentage of .012. EJ Manuel was solid in his NFL debut for the Bills, but Brady and the Patriots offense will have to play better as the competition gets tougher moving forward. 

In case you were wondering, Manning's performance puts him atop the leaderboard in Real QB Rating Differential after Week 1 with a +68.72. Good thing the Ravens gave Joe Flacco more money than any quarterback in NFL history, right?



In summary, the Brady vs. Manning rivalry is truly one to cherish as they enter the twillight of their careers. Brady has a decided edge if you look at the big picture, even though Manning will probably own more individual records when all is said and done.

The final rounds have yet to be fought and the final chapter has yet to be written, but the one thing that is known is we are watching two of the greatest to ever play the position as they jockey for positioning among the NFL's Mount Rushmore.

We will continue to update you on each player's progress as the season goes on as we look forward to Round 14 in November and a possible Round 15 in January. One thing about greatness is it isn't always recognized until we have the benifit of hindsight, but here at CHFF we will do our best to make sure you don't take this epic quarterback rivalry for granted.