The answer to one of the NFL's biggest questions could very well get answered on the field this season if the Denver Broncos were to meet the New York Giants in the Super Bowl. Without that matchup, we are left dissecting seasons of touchdowns and comebacks to determine who the best Manning is.
This is even a conversation thanks in large part to Eli Manning's second Super Bowl win and MVP over the New England Patriots last season. In fact, without last season, one in which Eli broke big brother's fourth-quarter TD record while Peyton sat watching from the sideline with a neck injury, the numbers would favor Peyton Manning by a large margin.
If we exclude last season from Peyton's career statistics, he has posted a 145-70 record, 11 Pro Bowls and a record four regular season MVP awards in 14 seasons. Meanwhile, Eli is 75-52, has only two trips to the Pro Bowl and hasn't sniffed a regular season MVP in his nine seasons of play.
Peyton has a higher TD-INT rate, more yards passing per game and a higher career quarterback rating. Peyton trumps Eli in just about every statistic there is. However, when you dig a little deeper, Peyton had built-in advantages that played a large role in achieving those significant numbers.
The Indianapolis Colts catered to Peyton about as much as any team, ever. Year after year the Colts would use first-round picks on skill positions to surround Peyton with. All-time great Marvin Harrison was there when Peyton arrived in 1998 and since then, the Colts have drafted major weapons Reggie Wayne, Edgerrin James, Dallas Clark and Joseph Addai in the first round.
In the eight years Eli has been with the Giants, the Giants have spent only two picks on an offensive player in the first round (wide receiver Hakeem Nicks in 2009 and David Wilson this past year). Couple that with the fact that Peyton played half of his games in a weather-controlled dome and Eli battled through frigid temperatures in the wind tunnel that was Giants Stadium, achieving a statistical advantage over Eli should come as no surprise.
The conversation is starting to become more interesting when you consider the path in which Eli is heading. Last season, Eli posted a career-high 4,933 yards passing (sixth most in NFL history), which is 233 more than Peyton's best. His record breaking 15 fourth-quarter TD passes helped lead the Giants to eight victories in games they were either tied or trailing through three quarters.
The other factor going for Eli is that the Giants' coaching staff may have changed their mode of attack on offense to feature their best weapons. Eli attempted the most passes in his career last season and is throwing the ball to possibly the best wide receiver tandem in all of football. Nicks put on a show during their playoff run and undrafted Victor Cruz emerged as not only Eli's security blanket, but also as the best slot receiver in all of football. At only 31 years old, Eli has plenty of seasons of lighting up the stat sheet with those two ahead of him.
With all that said, if you asked either of these two brothers what matters most, neither would say their stats. Both would come back with the same answer: postseason success. That of course is Eli's ultimate trump card. While Peyton has struggled to a 9-10 record in the playoffs with only one Super Bowl ring on his finger, Eli has flourished to an 8-3 record, two Super Bowl victories and a quarterback record five wins on the road.