DISCLAIMER: I have a Man Crush on Peyton Manning. I own two of his Colts jerseys (the Broncos one is currently being saved up for), a Colts hat and a sweet Colts helmet that my brother made for me out of metal. I love his commercials. I love the way he messes with the defense (except that pesky Falcons D from Week 2). I love that he’s all business and doesn’t showboat after one of his 400-plus touchdown passes.

DISCLAIMER NO. 2: Thanks to fantasy sports I don’t have very many teams that I love or that I dislike, except for the Patriots. I would take the Yankees winning the World Series over the Patriots winning anything. That goes for their quarterback Tom Brady. Even if I had the last pick in my 16-team fantasy league and for some odd reason Brady dropped all the way to me, I would not take him.

With that said, when our sports dude, GG, asked me if I wanted to write-up something based on the Manning-Brady matchup I couldn’t resist. It’s one of the few matchups that get me pumped to watch football and one of the few matchups where I have to ask my wife if she’ll allow me a 15-foot buffer zone between myself and the kids while the game is on.

If any of you play sports (real or fantasy), shoot pool, have an office competition, whatever, there’s always that one person that you badly have to beat even if it means you lose the rest of your games. This is that game for me. Beat Brady (and the Patriots) and I’m satisfied.

Those first four paragraphs were written Friday afternoon in anticipation of Sunday’s contest. If you’re reading this you probably know the outcome of the game. Unfortunately I wish I could tell you that I didn’t watch the game. Instead I enjoyed the amazing fall weather we’re having in the Northwest. Seventy degrees in October? As Axel Foley would say, “Get the F— Out of Here”.

I wish I could tell you that I actually watched my favorite team, Manning’s ex-squad pull out a come-from-behind, emotion-filled, “Win one for the Gipper” victory over the Green Bay Packers. Which by the way rocked! If you’re not familiar with the story, last Monday Colts head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia, a disease I know all too well as my wife battled (and kicked it’s butt) in 2005. The Colts were CHUCKSTRONG! and it showed as rookie quarterback Andrew Luck threw for 362 yards and two TDs and Reggie Wayne caught 13 passes for 212 yards and the go-ahead score with 35 seconds remaining. He also made good on a promise he made to his ailing coach.

But lucky me, I watched as Brady took a 9-4 lead in the head-to-head battle in a 31-21 win over the Denver Broncos. Brady and the Patriots did what they do best, (and what annoys me so well) little slant passes that are good enough for 10-12 yards (darn you Wes Welker!), combined with solid running from multiple backs (seriously pick one and roll with him!) that all lead to a lot of time eaten off the clock.

Statistically Manning outplayed Brady. Manning tossed 31 passes for 345 yards, three TDs and no picks. Brady was 23-for-31 with 223 yards passing a TD in the air and a 1-yard TD run.

As much as we like to make it a head-to-head matchup, football is not Nadal–Federer. It’s a team sport and when your defense allows 35 first downs, 251 yards on the ground, and fumbles thrice, you’re not going to win many games, no matter who your quarterback is.

Demaryius Thomas caught nine passes for 188 yards but DUDE! you’ve got to hang onto the ball when you’re sprinting towards the end zone. For the second week in a row Thomas had the ball stripped. Luckily this week, it was from a defender.

And I love Willis McGahee. I think he gives Manning something he had lacked the last few years he was in Indianapolis, but maybe some extra stick ’em on the gloves? The running back dropped a pass with 10:50 remaining and down 31-14 that would’ve extended a drive, then later fumbled with 3:48 to go on the 11-yard line when the Broncos could’ve made it 31-28 with time on the clock. I know he felt bad and he said yesterday that he put the loss on his shoulders.

Sure the final score showed a 10-point difference but this had all the makings of past Manning-Brady matchups. The last five matchups between the duo were decided by seven points or less. If McGahee doesn’t fumble and the Broncos turn around and score we’re looking at a 3-point contest.

Yah, it was frustrating so let’s move on.

I watched the game with my Seahawk lovin’ buddy. Disappointed, but warned that I was watching the Broncos-Patriots instead of the snoozefest that was the Seahawks-Panthers game, he bounced questions and remarks about Manning’s stability, while doing his best impersonation of Cam Newton against the Seahawks defense, scrambling in the pocket while my 4-year-old daughter attacked him with her Barbie’s and the constant question “Will you play with me?”

He said he heard that Manning can no longer throw the long ball. I’m using the Cerebral Manning approach and saying that during the preseason he kept that weapon in his pocket so opposing coaches, players, experts, critics and us fans would make comments like, “He can no longer throw the long ball.” He showed that he could in the season opener against Pittsburgh and he threw a few nice balls Sunday against the Patriots. I’m not buying it.

“If he takes a lick is head is going to fall off.” OK, so this comment actually came from an ex co-worker of mine who is a Steelers fan and promised that Peyton’s head was going to fall off when the Steelers sacked him. Ha! He’s been hit a few times pretty hard (SEE: Falcons 27, Broncos 21), but he’s also running more rather than just falling to the ground like he did in the past.  In fact, I haven’t seen him run this much since … never. He picked up 10 yards Sunday when he noticed he had a hole and a lot of green to run on. In the season opener he scrambled to pick up 7 yards – this was not Manning of old and if he was worried about his head falling off, he probably wouldn’t be galloping to first downs (get it “galloping” because he’s a Bronco and sort of runs like an old horse?).

Fact Check on the running: Phew … I was somewhat right. He’s rushing for 2 yards game, and is averaging 1.3 yards a carry, the most since he was a spry 30-year-old in ’06.

Is he back? I think so. I’d say 90-percent is back. In fact, if there’s any doubt about the long ball, or the oomph on the ball, I’m blaming older age. But I’d still rather have Manning throwing dinkers than most of the other quarterbacks in this league. He can still lay the ball where he wants to and he still has the awareness to pitter-patter his feet until he finds an open receiver.

I spent a lot of time breaking down the Brady-Manning “rivalry” that I don’t want it to go to waste. Why do we love this rivalry? Well, because they’re the two best at what they do. They’ve dominated the accolades in their life and between the two of them they’ve broken and often re-broken records.

I won’t bore you all with the statistical breakdowns but there were some fun facts that I learned so here you all go:

Did you know that Brady’s first start was against Manning and the Colts? A 44-13 victory on Sept. 30, 2001 where he didn’t even throw a touchdown. Brady would win the first six matchups before Manning took four of the next five. Brady has now won two straight. Boo!

Did you know that Brady’s worst game as a starter came against Manning and the Colts? Brady threw four picks and had a QB rating of 34 (career-low) in a 27-20 loss to the Colts on Nov. 5.

Did you know that last night was the first time the two entered the game (other than a 0-0 record to open up the season in 2004) with .500 records? Manning had entered the matchup undefeated four times. Brady entered it once, in that almost-perfect season in 2007.

Did you know that they’ve both been on “The Simpsons” and hosted “Saturday Night Live”? I give the edge to Manning. It’s still one of my all-time favorite bits. You choose.

Did you know that I may have taken this too long? And to think I was going to breakdown my top 3 favorite Manning-Brady moments.

January 21, 2007 – Did Peyton finally get that Brady Monkey off his back? I dislike that term, but it sure felt nice beating the Patriots especially for the AFC Championship. The Colts were down 21-3 and came back to win 38-34. I remember my son accidentally hitting the TiVO controller and the game jumped ahead to the end. I quickly changed it but not before I caught a glimpse of what I thought might have been confetti. Still while watching it I wondered if they had actually pulled it off. (Link to video highlights)

November 30, 2003 – Down 31-10 the Colts rally back but are stopped four times inside the 1 in the final minute. I think this was when my disdain for the Patriots started to grow, and the rivalry began to grow. NOTE: I couldn’t find any video … rats!

November 15, 2009 – The infamous 4th-and-1.5 where Kevin Faulk is tackled behind the yellow line. The Colts were down 34-21 with three minutes remaining. Manning turns around and throws a TD pass to Wayne for the win with 13 seconds to go. (Link to video highlights)

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