This week, we get to gear up for (arguably) the most anticipated regular season game on the entire NFL schedule: The New England Patriots at the Indianapolis Colts. Despite both teams not playing in the same division, and despite both teams not facing in other in the playoffs since the now-legendary 2006 AFC Championship Game, this match-up is indeed still the best rivalry in pro football.
Hell, it might be the best rivalry in all of sports.
More people will likely watch this game than any Red Sox v. Yankees game that was played last baseball season. It will likely gain higher ratings than the World Series, the NBA Finals, or the excellent Hockey playoff match-up last season that pitted their game's best players (Capitals ace Alexander Ovechkin and Penguins phenom Sydney Crosby) against each other. And while football rivalries like Packers v. Vikings, Cowboys v. Giants, and Steelers v. Ravens feature impressive teams loaded with big stars who are followed by large fanbases, no two players get debated more than Tom Brady v. Peyton Manning. And there is a reason for this.
They are the best in the league; maybe ever.
With all due respect to Drew Brees, who is having an amazing year with the still undefeated Saints, he can't touch Tommy Terrific or Perfect Peyton. Brees has all the physical tools, but until we see him rise to the occasion and lead his team to a conference championship game win, one can't put him on Brady or Manning's level.
Personally, I have long maintained Peyton is better than Tom, and unlike many of the Pro-Brady faction, I actually have tangible evidence to back it up. Peyton has helped his team to more wins. He has more impressive career numbers than Brady. And, to put it bluntly, Peyton has had a bigger overall impact on the league than Tom.
That no-huddle, spread offense the Patriots have used since 2007? Yeah, Peyton brought that back en vogue ten years ago.
But regardless of where you fall in the debate, what many of us agree upon is that these two are, quite possibly, the best to ever play the position. And while the morons in the established media world might claim that this reason or that prevents Manning or Brady from being in the all-time discussion (remember Chris Collingsworth saying earlier this season that Peyton Manning needed to win one more championship to be considered on the same level as Dan Marino... why does this schmuck still have employment?), what we fans know is that time and again these two have DEFINED great quarterback play for an entire generation. And as these two continue to re-write history books, the classic Pats v. Colts rivalry has begun to take a turn.
More so than any other time before, the rivalry has evolved from a nasty, bitter slap fest into one of mutual respect. Sure, we think (and know) the Patriots are cheaters, and Patriots fans think our Colts are nothing but cry-babies who change the rules to help them win. However, despite the outward silliness (and name-calling fun) of the rivalry, both sides also know that both teams demand (and have earned) respect.
In addition, both fanbases also respect one another. For me, pro football suffers when the Pats v. Colts rivalry suffers. I know about a billion Patriots fans who likely agree with that sentiment.
Keep an eye out here and at Pats Pulpit for more lead-up to this excellent rivalry game.