The great debates
Pats-Colts, Brady-Manning ... let the arguments begin
Posted: Tuesday October 23, 2007 11:50AM; Updated: Tuesday October 23, 2007 12:11PM
A few Patriots-Colts thoughts 12 days out from the latest Game of the Century, all involving public, fan, media and team perceptions:
I don't want to hear one thing from a Colt in the next two weeks along the lines of: "Nobody is giving us any credit. Everybody's jumping on the Patriot bandwagon, and people seem to forget we won the Super Bowl last year. We're getting dissed.'' (Well, I said it a little more properly than an angry player would.) No one in the press, public or football worlds would ever say the Colts aren't a great team. Whoever did would have to be cited for sporting idiocy.
The Patriots are one of the best teams ever to take the field. The Colts are close to that, and maybe better. We'll find out on Nov. 4. But it's silly for a player or a group of fans to derive motivation entering this game because some people, rightfully, think the Patriots are a better team right now. If it's arguable to suggest New England is playing better than any team has ever played for a half-season, then it's logical to say that the Patriots are the best team in 2007. It is not logical to derive from any of that that the Colts aren't getting their respect as defending champions.
Tony Kornheiser asked Ron Jaworski Monday night on ESPN who he thought is better right now -- Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. Jaworski looked like he'd rather answer this question: "Which of your daughters is your favorite?'' The answer is simple. We're living in an era with three of the best 10 quarterbacks (Manning, Brady, Brett Favre) ever to play. We'll have years to debate what order you'd put them in, and more great ones will be added as time passes. But I go back to point one: To pick one is not to discredit another.
Two years ago, I'd have picked Brady, based on his tradition of winning and being able to win a game when the whole thing was put on his shoulders. After 2006, I'd have picked the monkey-off-his-back Manning -- and I did pick him as the best player in football in that list of 500 players you all loved so much.
Now? I'd probably sway back to Brady, because he has shown how dominant he can be with a big-league receiving stable. I wish we'd have heard what Jaws really thought last night, because he watches each guy on game tape every week, but he ended up flipping a coin to make his choice. I think these two quarterbacks will rank in the top five of all time. Maybe 1-2, in some order. To say 15 years ago you liked Marino over Elway wasn't a knock on Elway. Same thing now.
My one big question from the New England offseason still endures: When push comes to second-half shove, will the Patriots defense be stout enough to stop the Colts? Last year, in the second half of the AFC title game, the Patriots let Indy drive the ball 76, 76, 67, 59 and 80 yards to score. My feeling is the Pats will be better, even though in a personnel sense they're not going to be much different from the team that allowed 32 points in the last 25 minutes of the championship game. How much better, though?
Indy needs to have a healthy Bob Sanders for the game against the Patriots, and the Colts go to Carolina this week for a physical test with the coming-off-the-bye Panthers. Sanders needs to come out of that game whole.
By the way, my lame attempt at satire in the Monday column didn't work. I wrote that Manning charted every pass play of every Sunday game, which he did not do. Just a joke. Boy, am I funny.