Brady vs. Manning: A rivalry renewed

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Brady vs. Manning: A rivalry renewed

If I asked you to name the biggest rivalries in Boston sports, youd rattle off a list faster than Antonio Cromartie can name his kids: Lakers-Celtics. Red Sox-Yankees. Bruins-Canadiens. Patriots-Jets. Patriots-Ravens. Patriots-Giants. Patriots-Steelers. Celtics-Heat. Bruins-Canucks. Red Sox-Rays. There are as many rivalries in Boston sports as there are guys named Shamus in Southie.

But what if I asked you for Bostons best individual rivalries?

Think along the lines of Magic-Bird. Or more realistically, something like Nomar-Jeter, Moss-Revis or Youkilis-Joba Chamberlain; a rivalry that doesnt necessarily have to transcend the team dynamic, but still stands on its own.

Take a second and see what you can come up with. I hope you have better luck than I did.

I guess Pierce-Kobe or Pierce-LeBron is up for discussion, but I wouldnt qualify either. First, because Kobes always been too consumed by Shaq and his imaginary rivalry with Michael Jordan to ever care too much about Pierce. And second, because recent history has taken LeBron into another stratosphere. Kevin Garnetts had plenty of rivals, but no one that's on his level. Bill Belichicks had phases with Rex Ryan and Eric Mangini but both have faded with time. Chris Paul and Rondo had the makings of a great rivalry, but they just dont see each other enough. Theres Doc Rivers-Bill Kennedy, Bobby V-Joe Maddon or even Tom Brady-Terrell Suggs but those are too one-sided, petty andor hilarious to register. Over the past few years, the Red Sox have had plenty of great rivalries within their own clubhouse, but nothing that really extends to another team. And while guys like Alex Burrows, Matt Cooke and P.K. Subban have earned the title of Boston Sports Villain none of them has that one individual Bruins rival unless you want to count Cooke and Marc Savard, but that was sadly over as soon as it started.

Who knows, maybe its a product of free agency, or Bostons slow fall from Title Town back to reality, but the fact remains that significant individual rivalries are a rare commodity on our local sports scene.

But thankfully, the individual rivalry is not dead at least not as long as two of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history are still going at in the AFC.

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. An individual rivalry for the ages. Its the best kind of rivalry, too. Its not based on pettiness, cheap shots or momentary bragging rights. It's a rivalry fueled by history, by permanent legacy, by how each quarterback will be remembered among the greatest quarterbacks of all time. It's a respectful rivalry, an aspect that most likely stems from the fact that these two are never in direct competition. Brady's never hit Manning. Manning's never intercepted Brady. In 11 years, they've never been on the field at the same time. While one's at work, the other's on the bench. Watching, marveling, laser focused on how to be better.

Who is better?

I guess that depends on your definition of better, but really, there's no doubt that Brady has the upper hand.

While Manning still leads in many important statistical categories he's third all-time in completions, while Brady ranks 10th; he's third in passing yards, while Brady ranks 11th; he's third with 407 touchdowns, exactly 100 more than Brady (who ranks fifth) these days, that statistical discrepancy is just as much a matter of time as it is skill. Manning's started 49 more games than Brady, which is more than three extra seasons. And with Peyton's career clock likely to run out before Tom's, it's fair to assume that those gaps will be significantly narrowed by the time both men are done. And even then, there are a number places where Brady already has the edge. He's third all-time in passer rating, while Manning ranks sixth. Brady's also thrown 85 fewer interceptions.

Then, there's winning.

Brady has a .773 career winning percentage, while Peyton's at .667.

Brady's 16-6 all-time in the playoffs (2-4 in his last six), while Manning's 9-10.

Brady's played in five Super Bowls, and won three. Manning only been there once (and he won).

This obviously comes from a slightly biased place, but I don't care if Tony Dungy's making the list, in any breakdown of the best all-time quarterbacks, Tom Brady needs to be ahead of Peyton Manning . . .

Still, that doesn't weaken the hype leading up to Sunday's game.

You know that member of your family who drives you nuts? Right. I know. Which one? Maybe it's an uncle, an aunt, a cousin or all of the above . . . but we all have them. That family member who makes every gathering andor holiday absolute hell. That family member who annoys you by breathing.

Well, last Thanksgiving that member of my family canceled at the last minute. He supposedly wasn't feeling well, but the excuse didn't matter. The rest of us were ecstatic. It was a dream. And we all went on to have one of our most fun and easygoing turkey days in years.

But honestly, something was missing. The whole night was so peaceful and laid back, but for that reason, it didn't feel like Thanksgiving. And in a strange and irritating way, that kind of sucked. It just wasn't the same.

And last season, that's what it felt like in New England with Peyton Manning out of the mix. Initially, it was great to see the Colts take a hit. One of the most difficult games on the Patriots schedule had just become a cupcake. Tom Brady's biggest rival had just been taken down at the knees (or the neck). Everybody wins!

But when that game finally took place, and Curtis Painter awkwardly jogged out onto to the field, everyone missed Manning. Regardless of all the fear and frustration he'd laid on New England in the past, it wasn't the same without him. You wished that he was out there.

On Sunday, after nearly two years away, Manning finally returns to Gillette, and lucky for New England, Tom Brady will be waiting, ready to defend his legacy and bring us all another chapter of Boston's undisputed best individual rivalry.

Even if it might also be the only individual rivalry.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Friday Bag: What’s the Patriots' future at running back look like?

Friday Bag: What’s the Patriots' future at running back look like?

Every Friday Tom E. Curran, Mike Giardi and Phil Perry will take your Patriots questions (Curran is sitting this one out) on Twitter and answer them as a joint mailbag -- or a Friday Bag, as they call it. 

Got questions? Tweet the guys using the hashtag #FridayBag.

MG: Q leading off my portion of the always popular, always exciting, always (occasionally?) informative #FridayBag. I think it would be easy to think that way from the outside looking in, or knowing how callous some organizations can be, but I just don’t believe that to be the case here. Players talk. Agents talk. Hell, coaches talk. If the Pats were to operate that way, it would get around the league in a heartbeat. Then why would someone want to play here knowing they’ll be treated even more like a disposable commodity then normal? The flip side to this is actually protecting the player from himself. Guys in the last year of a deal sometimes feel compelled to play through every damn thing so they can at least say “look at me, I’m a warrior!” And on that note, I’d sit Marty Bennett next week in Denver and probably the following week against the Jets if that will help the ankle and whatever else is ailing him heal to the point where he’s a hell of a lot more effective than what we just saw versus the Rams (He was awful). Bennett’s too valuable going forward. 

MG: Lisa, my understanding is teams nominate their player and then it goes to a panel (one that includes the NFL Commish) to decide who wins for the league (It was Anquan Boldin in 2015). Can’t quibble with Rob Gronkowski being the team’s nominee this year. People have no idea how much he does for the community. Heck, we don’t even know the extent of it, but the great Don Rodman of Rodman Car Dealer fame and one of the most incredibly charitable individuals to ever grace this area said that there are few if any athletes who devote more time and effort to charitable works/foundations. I hope he wins. It would mean a lot to Gronk.

MG: You never figured you’d have to worry about the offense, did you Steve? But the season-ending injury to Gronk and now the injury to Danny Amendola does concern me. Both of those guys are incredibly reliable 3rd down targets, and in Gronk’s case, he’s usually the first or second option on 3rd down. Bennett hasn’t been able to pick up the slack because he’s clearly not healthy either. That means the Pats and Josh McDaniels will be going through a trial and error period here to best determine how to improve that number and become more efficient. I suspect more will fall on Julian Edelman, but also look for the continued evolution of the two back set with James White and Dion Lewis.

MG: Ambrose, the Pats have remained incredibly committed to the run because they don’t want to find themselves in the same spot they were a year ago, when the run game was so pathetic that neither Miami in the regular season finale nor Denver in the AFC title game paid it one mind. That means rushers pinning their ears back and smashing into Tom Brady at rates no one is comfortable with. So while I won’t be surprise if Brady throws it 45 times, I don’t think they shelve the ground game, at least in the first half. 

MG: Ok Bunk, I stole a comment of yours for the mailbag. Trying to make you famous…yes, I stand by my tweet in which I stated the Ravens and Broncos are bigger threats than the Chiefs or Raiders. Oakland’s defense would give up 40 to Brady. 45 if the Pats needed it. Or 50. I’m dead serious. As for the Chiefs, Alex Smith is not coming into Foxboro and beating this team, even with some of it’s defensive issues. And Belichick will make damn sure that rookie Hill doesn’t get many cracks at touching the football in the return game. Oh, and now the Chiefs best linebacker, Johnson, is out for the year with an Achilles. Should I continue???

MG: History tells us no, David. Brady would throw a fit and argue that he needs to play to remain sharp or iron out this problem or that problem. There’s also the possibility of a bye week looming, meaning he’d go 3 weeks without actually playing in a game. Seems like a good idea in the sense that you don’t risk a 39-year old to a blindside shot, but neither he nor Belichick would ever go for it.

PP: The running back position might be the toughest to project moving forward because there are so many injuries there and there are so many backs who come from nowhere to earn significant roles. I'll say this though: The backs they have on the roster -- not including Brandon Bolden, who has turned into strictly a special teamer after having a difficult time holding onto the football this year -- don't seem to be slowing down. LeGarrette Blount just turned 30 but is in the middle of his best season. Dion Lewis looks strong after two surgeries. James White has taken his game to a new level in his third season. I could see the same group coming back next season, but given the volatility of the position, you know the Patriots will always be scouring for talent there. 

PP: Tom E. touched on this yesterday, Big Wally. Brandon Pettigrew, who was released by the Lions on Friday, might make sense. Otherwise, there's not a whole lot out there. Zach Sudfeld? He's available. Would be an unlikely reunion, but desperate times . . . I think the Patriots will continue to roll out Martellus Bennett at less than 100 percent. I think Matt Lengel could see more work as a blocking tight end as he becomes more familiar with the system. I think we'll see more Cameron Fleming, and we could see more two-back sets with no tight ends. In my opinion, Bennett could use a rest, but I don't think it's coming any time soon. As far as Sarge's question about the hurry-up, I'm not sure we'll start to see more that. It's possible, but one of the benefits with the hurry-up is to keep a defense from substituting to shift matchups in its favor. With Gronkowski or Bennett on the field in a hurry-up situation would have even further highlighted the matchup issues they present. If either one found himself with a slow linebacker on him, the Patriots could have rushed to the line and continued...to exploit...that matchup. Without Gronkowski and without Bennett at full strength, the advantage of the no-huddle is somewhat sapped.  

PP: It's so late into the season, I'm not sure there's much in the way of opportunity for a breakout game this week, Paul. I guess the obvious choice would be Griff Whalen. If he can give the Patriots a pair of sure hands as a punt-returner, that would be a significant enough add that I might qualify it as a "breakout." Bill Belichick made it clear this morning that the team views him as more than just a returner, though, so he could see some offensive snaps in four-receiver sets and provide the Patriots with a presence in the slot. I'd deem a four-catch, 50-yard performance as a "breakout" as well. To me, that's the range of his ceiling for this week. One other name as a potential "breakout" candidate? Justin Coleman. He could be used defensively after being inactive for the last three weeks due to Eric Rowe's hamstring injury. If he's able to help slow down the combination of Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman and Steve Smith, that'd be a breakout in my book. 

PP: The combined record of opponents they've beaten is actually 26-57-1, including the Browns 0-12 mark twice, but now it's out there. 'Preciate you, Dave!

PP:  There's still so much up for grabs in the AFC West that it's hard to determine the likelihood of Patriots playoff matchups and where those games will be. However, without getting into the nitty gritty details, I'll just point out that it's still possible that the Patriots end up on the road in either of these cities in the postseason. On the road, Denver is the tougher matchup. Always has been a brutal place for the Patriots to play, and Denver's defense is still good enough to cause them problems. At home? I'd say, of these two teams, Kansas City would be the one that would provide the Patriots with a slightly tougher test. In my mind, they're a little more balanced and I have more faith in Alex Smith to make plays than I do Trevor Siemien.

Friday's Patriots-Ravens practice report: Richards returns to the field

Friday's Patriots-Ravens practice report: Richards returns to the field

Friday's practice participation/injury report for Monday night's Patriots-Ravens game:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
WR Danny Amendola (ankle)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
TE Martellus Bennett (ankle/shoulder)
DB Jordan Richards (knee)
LB Elandon Roberts (hamstring)
DB Eric Rowe (hamstring)
WR/SpT Matthew Slater (foot)

BALTIMORE RAVENS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
TE Crockett Gilmore (thigh)
LB Terrell Suggs (not injury related)
RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (thigh)
C Jeremy Zuttah (not injury related)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
G Alex Lewis (ankle)

FULL PARTICIPATION
G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)