Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Game of the Year

Talk about a couple of transcendent performances this weekend from the NFL's two best quarterbacks. In one corner, you have Peyton Manning, every fantasy nerd's best friend, shredding the previously untouchable Broncos defense to keep the Colts undefeated at 7-0. Some writers have called it the best game of his life - not a light statement to make. In the other corner, you have Tom Brady, the consummate champion and the NFL's poster boy, toying with a pretty good Viking defense to take the ever-dangerous Patriots to 6-1. And in those two, you have the two best teams in the NFL and thank the schedule makers that we have a matchup between them to look forward to next Sunday.

(Brief interlude here - yes, I'm saying
the Colts and Patriots are better than the Bears. Yes, the Bears have been flat out dominating at times, but they also barely got by the Vikings, a team that the Patriots blew out on the road. Plus, the Bears' schedule is essentially a cakewalk to home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The Colts and Patriots are both faced with superior schedules and that will make them tougher now and in the long run.)

Anyway, back to the business at hand - the game of the year at Gillette Stadium. The two best teams, basically to see who should be considered the midseason favorite, not only in the AFC but in the NFL. And it has all the makings to be a close game that lives up to its billing. And why not? Peyton Manning always has something to prove when he faces Bill Belichick's Patriots - that win in the regular season last year is a distant memory now. And what of Belichick's Patriots? Well, they don't need much to motivate them, but you don't think Tom Brady will want to show he has the upper hand over Manning, for whom the whispers of "best QB ever" are growing louder? It's like Brady's performance against the Vikings was a counterserve to Manning's brilliance. Anything you can do, I can do better.

I'm tempted to say Patriots-Colts is the best rivalry of this generation, but I don't think you can say that without some major disclaimers. Their games are likely the most anticipated for their star power and intrigue, but to call it the best may not be accurate since it hasn't been that competitive. Yes, Peyton finally won one last year, but to me, all that matters is that in the playoffs, Brady has come out on top twice. Really, I think this rivalry is more like Cowboys-49ers in the 1992 and 1993 seasons. They were the two best regular season teams, and their NFC Championship games were anticipated as much as a Super Bowl. But the Cowboys showed in both cases that they were clearly the superior team, handling San Francisco with relative ease in both showdowns.

For this to be a considered a great rivalry, we'll need to see a rematch of these two teams in the playoffs - and I'm praying to the football gods that we do - and the Colts need to win it. At least that way, it wouldn't be so one-sided. For now though, it's rare to see a matchup of the two best teams in the NFL at this point in the season, and hopefully we'll be treated to a game that's worthy of the significant hype it's receiving.

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