Tom Brady’s Patriots and Peyton Manning’s Broncos will meet Sunday at 3 p.m. in Denver for the AFC Championship Game. This will be the 15th time Brady and Manning play opposite each other, their 4th playoff game, and their 3rd Conference Championship Game. So far the record stands at 10-4 in Brady’s overall favor, 2-1 in the playoffs, and 1-1 in the Conference Championships. Between the two quarterbacks they hold or probably will hold all the existing NFL quarterbacks records as well as a dozen new ones they created. We get to watch two of the best quarterbacks in the history of professional football in a high stakes game but must tune out much of the media build-up to enjoy it.
The first thing to avoid is getting sucked into who is the better quarterback arguments, these have been going on for years and I haven’t seen anyone “win” their argument yet. With 10+ years of records and statistics at our fingertips there’s plenty of ammunition to argue but even that’s never enough. When the argument appears headed to stalemate it simply expands to who had the better players on their side when the records were accumulated.
The second thing to avoid is buying into the idea quarterback with the better supporting players can play better on Sunday. We are talking the best of the best here. Both quarterbacks are expected to find their opportunities where they exist and exploit them with the talent they have. If you can watch the game one play at a time you should see two quarterbacks who make few mistakes and completing passes with extreme accuracy. You should be rewarded with many, “how did he do that” moments worthy of multiple replays.
The third thing to avoid is thinking the winner of this game will determine who goes down in history as the better quarterback. It’s fair to expect both quarterbacks to be back for a few more years and continue accumulating wins and new records. Refer to first thing to avoid if in doubt.
The 4th and final thing to avoid is applying normally safe assumptions during the game and to the final outcome of the game. Seeing either quarterback in a 3rd in 20 situation does not mean they will likely punt on the next play. No lead is to be considered safe in the first three quarters. A 14 point lead is a hopeful sign but is not at all safe before the 2 minutes warning but you can smile a little with less than a minute left. Finally a lead of 8 points or less is never safe with any amount of time left.
It’s not my intention to spoil your entire week of analyzing the player match-ups, run and pass defenses, special teams, and flood of statistics that will be available. Just don’t think they are going to mean anything at kickoff time.