NEW YORK, New York, Jan. 30, 2014-- It's hard to believe that fewer than two years ago, the Indianapolis Colts and much of the NFL believed Peyton Manning's career was done. His brother, Eli had just won his second Super Bowl MVP on Peyton’s home field and it Peyton’s career was in jeopardy as he recovered from four major neck surgeries. After announcing they would release him in early March of 2012, the Colts sped up his funeral precession by retiring his no. 18 jersey. However, two years later, Zombie Peyton has led the New York Jets to the Super Bowl at their home stadium in the New Meadowlands.
In what Rex Ryan dubbed the Cain & Abel Bowl, the Jets will face their Meadowland roommates, the New York Giants and Eli Manning in Super Bowl XLVIII. The Giants and Jets are two franchises that have divided households and pitted brother against brother in New York City for decades.
A quarter century ago, Peyton and Eli were wrestling in Archie’s basement. It’s appropriate that they stage their penultimate battle in the home stadium. A win by Eli and the Giants would launch Peyton’s kid brother into the elite pantheon of three-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.
The 17-1 Jets and the 13-6 Giants took different routes to the Big Game. The Jets were world-beaters throughout the regular season and won a pair of home games to advance to the play in New York City’s first Super Bowl. The Giants played two out of their three games on the road en route to a “home” Super Bowl.
Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano has praised Manning throughout his two seasons in New York by joking on Media Day that he hasn’t called a play in two years.
A Super Bowl would not only bring Manning one Super Bowl closer to Peyton but it would also be the ultimate vindication for embattled head coach/sports prophet Rex Ryan. After predicting the Jets would win a Super Bowl so often that many speculated a white haired time traveler with a Sports Almanac had visited him at some time in the past.
Peyton earned his fifth MVP award during the season but Darrelle Revis has quarterbacked the best defense in the NFL. It’s the best defense Peyton has ever played with and has made many wonder how much he more impressive his playoff resume would be if he had played with a defense of half this caliber for much of his career.
It also has analysts wondering how much he can stuff into his resume before the retirement reaper claims him. In two years he’ll be 40. In two seasons as a Jets, Manning has thrown for 70 touchdowns and his 469 career touchdown passes is places him just 56 behind Brett Favre for the all-time record in career touchdown passes. He also remains just 9,000 yards behind Favre on the all-time passing yardage list.
I wouldn’t bet against him. To say the Manning era in New York has been a success is an understatement. After getting obliterated by the Jets in the AFC Championship Game, Dolphins quarterback Tom Brady said he only hopes his second year in Miami with receivers Brandon Marshall and Reggie Wayne comes close to matching Manning’s second season as a Jet.
First Manning must win his second Super Bowl and end the suffering of another downtrodden franchise. In order to do that, Peyton must slay his brother’s defense on Super Bowl Sunday.