NeMesiS Posted June 12, 2006 Share Posted June 12, 2006 http://www.profootballweekly.com Matchup of the Mannings great way to start season By Hub Arkush (firstname.lastname@example.org) June 10, 2006 Of all the 256 games scheduled for the 2006 NFL regular season, the one that jumps up and screams at me the loudest at the moment is the clash between the Colts and Giants at Giants Stadium on the opening weekend of the season. That it marks the return of NBC to NFL broadcasting — a near seismic shift that caused the end of an era of “Monday Night Football” on ABC and hopes to begin a new cultural habit of wrapping up our fall and early-winter weekends with the NFL in prime time on free over-the-air HD — is little more than a curiosity. I’m hard-pressed to imagine anyone still craving a Monday-night fix won’t have access to cable or satellite. And regardless of any bells and whistles NBC might trot out, the presence of Al Michaels and John Madden guarantees its product will be mostly indistinguishable from ABC’s old Monday-night offerings. If they’re smart, that is. What fascinates me about this 8:15 p.m. EDT kickoff on Sunday, Sept. 10, is the battle of the Mannings and this premonition I just can’t dodge that Eli is in fact coming on, while Peyton may be … One can argue that no player in the history of the game has accomplished more or had a bigger impact in his first eight seasons than Peyton Manning. His 128 consecutive regular-season starts include every single game the Colts have played since they drafted him, and the club is 38-10 over the last three seasons. His stats — 2,769-of-4,333 completions for 33,189 yards with a 244-130 TD-interception ratio and a .639 completion percentage — put him on a pace to not only surpass but shatter every passing record there is, if he meets his stated goal of playing eight more seasons. With six Pro Bowl appearances and two MVP awards, what more can we ask for? Well, he is just 3-6 in the playoffs, including a loss in his only conference title game, and therefore doesn’t have a ring. Since he didn’t get one last year after his regular-season exorcism of the Patriots/Tom Brady spell that bound him in Foxborough and his team’s 13-0 start, it’s certainly fair to at least ask the question whether he’s on course to be the next John Elway or the next Dan Marino. The Week 14 loss to San Diego didn’t bother me; if you read or listened, you know I never gave the Colts a chance to go undefeated. And it’s quite possible that the Colts, in fact, followed the 13-0 start by dropping three of their last four (including playoffs) due to a combination of the horrible tragedy surrounding the suicide of head coach Tony Dungy’s son and an ill-fated decision to allow all the team’s key players to phone it in the last three weeks of the regular season to prepare for the playoffs. But it’s also possible Manning hasn’t won games that “count” yet because as beautiful as he is to watch going up and down the field, he may just not have “It.” The one point I do feel fairly certain about is that life after the “Edge” (i.e., Edgerrin James) won’t go nearly as smoothly as the transition from Marshall Faulk to James. Imagine U2 without a lead guitar. Asked to do that much more this year and with WR Marvin Harrison getting up there in years, Peyton is looking more Marino-like to me all the time. Now, Eli gets me pumped. Forget the fact he hasn’t started every game from Day One as Peyton did. Different time, different team, different coach. Compare Peyton’s numbers his first full year as a starter (326-575-3,739-26-28 with a 71.2 passer rating) to Eli’s last year (294-557-3,762-24-17-75.9) and the fact Peyton’s Colts were 3-13 while Eli led the Giants to an 11-5 mark. Yes, the Giants stunk it up in a playoff loss to the Panthers, but 0-1 in the playoffs isn’t 3-6. Look at the weapons at Eli’s command. RB Tiki Barber appears to be aging like a fine wine, and Brandon Jacobs is more than just a backup. Plaxico Burress hasn’t peaked yet, Amani Toomer is one of the more underrated wideouts in the game and now Sinorice Moss waits in the wings. And Jeremy Shockey has a real chance to be the most rare and treasured of all commodities in today’s NFL, a special tight end. If Antonio Pierce and LaVar Arrington are healthy behind Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora, New York’s “D” will produce a lot more momentum-turning plays, and Eli will find himself with a lot more chances to strike fast and strike big. Granted, at this stage of his game, Eli is not as accurate as Peyton, and that is a concern. And we have no idea how Eli will fare when it comes time to “slice that meat!” or chant, “Decaf, decaf!” But the last piece of the puzzle for me is that, when I watch Peyton, I feel like I’m watching a chess master or a surgeon, admirable images but devoid of drama. When you watch Eli in the opener against his “big bro” this year, I think you’re going to see a little fire, perhaps a few sparks and maybe even a big boom or two. I haven’t quite put my finger on it yet, but I think maybe Eli has “It.” If I’m right, the Giants’ arrow is definitely pointing up. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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