In past years, if the Patriots were getting ready to take on the Colts, there would be a buzz in the air all week. Something feels different this week, though. The Patriots host the Indianapolis Colts in Foxboro on Sunday at 4:15 p.m. yet there’s been more talk on the radio this week about whether or not the Red Sox should acquire Justin Upton .
So what’s the deal? It’s not like either the Patriots or Colts are bad this season. The Patriots are 7-2, tied with the New York Jets for first place in the AFC East. They’re also tied with the surprising Atlanta Falcons, led by former Boston College star Matt Ryan, for the best record in the entire NFL. The Colts, despite having a barrage of injuries, are 6-3 and leading the AFC South.
The Patriots still have Tom Brady. The Colts still have Peyton Manning. They are unquestionably the two best quarterbacks of this generation. It could be argued they are the best two quarterbacks of all time. It’s like watching Dan Marino battle against Joe Montana back in the 1980’s. According to Kerry Byrne of Cold Hard Football Facts, those two only squared off five times however, highlighted by Super Bowl XIX (which was a rout for Montana’s 49’ers). Byrne mentions some other great rivalries like Bart Starr vs. Johnny Unitas, Terry Bradshaw vs. Ken Stabler, and Bradshaw vs. Roger Staubach. Those were all great QBs, to be sure, but not even close to being on the level of Brady-Manning. And it was very rare for those QBs to play each other.
We’ve had the pleasure of seeing Brady battle Manning pretty much every year, usually twice a year. Are we getting complacent with this rivalry? I sure hope not. It could be a long time before we see two masters of their craft duel against one another like this. The only other rivalry in any sport I would put on this level is Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson. We might never see two quarterbacks who combine the physical talent with the cerebral acuity of these two battle on such a consistent basis.
I think this game may not be getting the usual hype due to the lack of “star” power outside of Brady-Manning. On the Patriots’ side, there is no Randy Moss, Corey Dillon, Teddy Bruschi, Ty Law, Junior Seau, or Rodney Harrison-types. The Colts don’t have names like Marvin Harrison, Edgerrin James, Bob Sanders, Tony Dungy, Dallas Clark, or possibly Joseph Addai. There are no smack-talkers to provide bulletin board material on these teams.
Maybe another reason for the lack of buzz is that maybe not much is expected from either team. Usually one or both of these teams is flirting with perfection at this point in the season. The Colts have been riddled with injuries and it is an enormous credit to Manning for single-handedly keeping this team afloat. The Colts have been without offensive weapons like Addai, Clark, Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie, and Anthony Gonzalez for significant portions of the season.
The Patriots, despite being near or at the top of many experts’ power rankings, still appear to be viewed as flawed or too young, especially on defense. One just has to look at the Cleveland game to question this team’s Super Bowl credentials.
Even with all the injuries and the youth on both sides, this game boils down to Brady vs. Manning, more so than any other season. One day we will be able to tell future generations about how we saw two of the greatest quarterbacks of all time battle in some of the most memorable games ever. Don’t take these games for granted, and savor every audible, facial expression, and pass.