With thirteen years of history already behind them, how much bearing, if any, does Sunday's game have on the legacies of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning?
Rick: This game means more to Peyton Manning’s legacy than Brady’s. Manning needs that second Super Bowl to back up his greatest regular season quarterback of all-time claim. As for Brady, I look at this game for the Patriots as house money for them. With all the injuries they have had to this point, I don’t think Brady’s legacy takes a hit considering his 8 AFC Championship Games in 12 years and taking this group of players to a 12-4 season and the #2 seed. If Manning can beat Brady twice in the AFC Championship Game at home, it does more for his legacy than Brady. The 13 years of these two quarterbacks playing each other tells us one thing: This game is going to be another classic!
Jason: I don't think it means all that much to Brady's legacy. Whether he wins or loses, he's going to be guaranteed to have three Super Bowl rings and twice as many head-to-head wins in games against Manning. But it means the world to Manning's legacy. The narrative is that he can't beat Brady when it matters most. Plus the only time he won a Super Bowl, he was carried by his defense. Earning second Super Bowl ring after out-dueling Brady? That allows him to rewrite the narrative to a certain extent.
Raj: It has a tremendous amount of bearing because even though both quarterbacks are legends and are first-ballot hall-of-famers, they still want one more ring to their collection. Brady should have 5 but the other Manning blocked that reality. So for Brady, there's more pressure on him to do his best since this might be his last quality season with New England. For Peyton, he only has a few years left in him. But I feel like there's less load he has to bare because let's be honest, his receiving core are mostly pro bowlers. Brady does not have the same offense yet he finds ways to get it done. Unfortunately though, the reality is that this might be the only year where he and his non-pro bowl receivers can compete at their maximum ability at the same time.
Derek: If Manning wins this game, it will do little to pull him closer to Brady. He would have to go to New Jersey and actually win the Super Bowl for it to have much bearing. That would pull him within one title of Brady. The two would have split their post-season matchups, and then he'd have his MVP titles and TD and passing records as feathers in his cap. So with a win, Peyton would still need an additional win against Seattle/San Fran to get him anywhere near the same page as Brady. I'm not so sure he gets that second win.
If Brady wins this game, he effectively buries Manning. He will be going to his sixth Super Bowl with a chance for a record fourth ring. Even if the Patriots lose the Super Bowl, he remains up by two titles. He would have the post-season head-to-head matchup advantage at 3-1. He would have six wins in eight AFC Championship appearance. He'd have his 16-0 season. His 50 passing TD's still hold weight even though it's no longer a record. He would have a record 19 career playoff wins, to Manning's 10-12 record.
If the Patriots win, then Brady will end this thirteen year long debate. He has to know that. Rest assured that the fire burning inside this 199th draft pick is burning at its hottest. The chip on his shoulder has never been larger. Brady wants this one...