Super Bowl XLVI: Quarterback Club

Posted: January 29, 2012 by mzyohai in NFL, Opinion, Patriots
Tags: , , , , ,

Nick: With another week before the Super Bowl, let’s spend the added time during the ‘bye’ by completely ignoring the Pro Bowl and the fact that the NFL has admitted its pointlessness: this year, the league will allow players to tweet mid-game from computers on each sideline. (I can’t wait for Arian Foster to light up the Twitterverse with some Zen observation about Hawaii.)

Instead of wasting more time on this glorified Arena Football League game beyond that previous paragraph, let’s delve into the nougaty center and creamy filling of this upcoming Super matchup: Eli Manning vs. Tom Brady, the creme de la creme of mano-a-mano quarterback showdowns. (Drew Who Dat? Favre’s backup? Meh.)

Both Manning and Brady led their teams all the way to the Super Bowl, but with the game still a week away from being decided, the hypothetical debate rages on: who would you rather go to war with, the younger Manning brother ready to usurp his brother’s throne (yes, I’m reading Storm of Swords, so sue me) or Tom Brady with his three rings and record-tying 16 playoff wins?

It’s pretty obvious whom I would choose. Between being an unabashed homer and the way I phrased that question, I think I can safely claim the crown for subtly (there I go again). So I’m curious, Mike: both as someone who hates Eli almost as much as Tommy Boy, and as someone who has to watch Mark Sanchez inept his way to impossible Peyton Manning rumors, which quarterback would you rather have in charge on the biggest stage in football (besides the annual London Classic, that is)?

Mike: I’d glad you’re already gearing up for a Pats-Rams showdown in London next year.

There’s no question I would like to have Brady at the helm for most situations and for most comparable categories. But for this situation — for this year’s Super Bowl — I want Eli. I want Little-Manning-Face.

I’ll start with his recent string of performances. Since putting up a real stinker of game against the Jets, which they still won somehow (I might lose half my hair by the end of this week), Eli has put up gems. He outshined Aaron Rogers in Lambeau Field. He picked apart a Rob Ryan defense. His worst performance of the last four games came against a fantastic defense. Over the Giants’ last four games, Eli has thrown touchdowns with consistency, totally eleven in all. In the playoffs, Brady hit six against the Broncos, then none against the Ravens. I’m going with the more consistent player.

Nick: I hear what you’re saying about taking the hot quarterback. I really do. But those “hot” performances came against the worst defense in the league, a Falcons team minus their top corner, and a Dallas defense without any secondary or other impact player besides DeMarcus Ware. (Last I checked, being a Ryan brother has no bearing on success. Oh wait, you’re a Jets fan, you already know that.) In other words, the same argument you used against Brady applies to Manning: he’s not as good against quality defenses. Go figure.

(Also, you can’t overlook the fact that he was gifted a win over the Niners by a shoddy early whistle on the Bradshaw fumble-that-wasn’t and the shoddy punt returning of Kyle Williams, times two. I don’t know if I would consider last week’s 32 for 58 performance to outplay Alex Smith as much of a momentum builder.)

Mike: I’m not even going to touch the officiating of those two games. Whatever happened, happened.

I get what you’re saying about Manning’s performances, but it doesn’t matter who it came against if the next game is against the worst defense in the league. I would gladly knock Eli if he were about to face the Steelers, but he’s not, he’s going from mediocre (at best) defenses to the worst. Look, if Joe Flacco can put together 300 yards and a 61% completion rate, I think Eli can do at least that.

Nick: Now the Patriots are far from a quality defense — that much I’ll admit. But their game plan last week was to make Flacco beat them. He almost did. This week their game plan will be focused almost solely on stopping the passing attack, since the Giants don’t even have a pretense at a running game (let alone Ray Rice). Eli could very well dissect the Pats secondary, but they won’t be giving him the throws they gave Flacco last week.

Plus, Eli has a track record of making awful decisions on the field, throwing picks and taking bad sacks, even intentionally grounding it in the end zone for a safety this postseason. I would be much more inclined to put my money on Brady’s postseason decision making than Eli’s. A little bit of pressure can go a long way with the poutiest Manning, especially after he got rampaged last week. And if you want to say two weeks is too long for him still to be rattled, then by default it’s too long for him to hold on to his “momentum” — a shaky concept to begin with (you can really only be as good as your last play), particularly in a sport that happens once a week.

Mike: Last week’s game is also the first win for the Patriots against a team with a winning record. In all of those games against winning teams, Brady did not play well. Brady threw for less than 200 yards against the Steelers and then tossed two INTs against both the Ravens and Giants. Yes, the Giants only beat one team that ended up with a winning record during the regular season, but Eli has handled three very good teams this postseason.

I think you have to take Brady on the statistical superiority he shows, but I’m going with the momentum Eli is feeling right now. The Pats may be riding a huge wave of wins going into the Superbowl, but I don’t think Brady’s performance is matching up with that 10-game streak.

Nick: I don’t care how backwards this thinking is, but after his own admission to having “sucked” last week (not enough has been made of that quote, apparently), I am not about to bet on Tom Brady putting up another stinker.

Mike: I’m no fan of the younger Manning brother, but Brady is going to face the toughest four-man rush in the entire league on Super Sunday. Eli is worse against the blitz, but Brady will actually be facing a legitimate rush led by Osi Umenyiora, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Justin Tuck while having to parse a crowded secondary. I guess it’s going to come down to picking your poison: would you rather your quarterback suffer a couple of sacks or possibly throw an interception? Something is telling me we’re going to see a handful of both this game.

Nick: I don’t plan on Brady losing twice to the Giants in two games (both this season and in Super Bowl showdowns). I may have put up my Belichick hoodie blinders, but I just don’t see Brady allowing those two 0-2 records to happen.

He will show up for such a big game, and he shall prevail. I hope.

Mike: Brady always shows up for games. His poor numbers in losses and last weekend I would never attribute to Brady “not showing up.” I think he was shut down. It had nothing to do with his will or concentration. Tom Brady is one of the most competitive quarterbacks in the league. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll show up for this game and that the stupid (and I mean really fucking stupid) interceptions he threw against the Ravens will not be as profuse. But some teams just match up well against him. And in the defense vs. quarterback match-up department, I’m giving Eli the slight edge.

Nick: As long as you’re giving out edges, I’d like to give Eli the edge of Ned Stark’s sword. And I would only begrudgingly look him in the eye.


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