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Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are two of the biggest rivals in football history, but when the two meet on Sunday in Foxboro, it just won't be the same.
Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have a lot in common. Each came into the league around the same time, with Tom arriving in the NFL two years after Peyton (and much less ceremoniously), and each has certainly had their moment(s) in the sun. Tom has three Super Bowl victories and Peyton has one.
Then, there's their rivalry. For years, whenever Tom and Peyton met on the field, everybody watched. After all, these were the two most elite quarterbacks in all of football, both destined to wind up in Canton. It was must-see football on paper, and definitely must-see football on the gridiron. Truly as good as it gets.
So many memorable moments between Tom's and Peyton's respective teams, the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts. Brady even made his first NFL start against Peyton and his Colts on September 30, 2001, a game that New England triumphantly won, 44-13, after Manning tossed three picks. In 2005, Manning led his Colts into Gillette Stadium, a place where he was winless in seven tries, and routed the Pats, 40-21. Then there was the 2006 AFC Championship Game, where Manning and company erased an 18-point lead to move on. And of course, there was fourth-and-two. The list goes on and on.
Once more, the two will do battle on Sunday, but it just doesn't feel the same.
Manning, now a member of the Denver Broncos, has lost a step. He's still a good quarterback who can be very good at times -- take a look at last week's performance against the Oakland Raiders (338 passing yards, three touchdowns) -- but he isn't the former four-time league MVP he once was.
You could say the same thing about Brady. He isn't the same guy he was during the Patriots' Super Bowl trifecta, or during the historic 18-1 run in 2007. Still, you wouldn't call him washed up. Tom and Peyton are still above average.
So, should the rematch between the two still carry major hype? Absolutely. Perhaps this Sunday's Brady-Manning battle won't be as epic as it was five or so years ago, but both are going to do everything in their power to get that win.
Tom has had the upper hand in meetings with Manning, winning eight of the 12 games, per ESPN. Manning, however, has been the victor in four of the last six meetings. Brady has averaged 236.3 passing yards with 22 touchdowns in those 12 games while Manning has averaged 290.3 passing yards and has 24 scores.
Those numbers are meaningless now, though. Brady and Manning are on different teams with different strengths and weaknesses. Both teams enter the game at 2-2. Knowing how much both quarterbacks wants to win, it would be hard to envision a scenario where Sunday's game isn't a very close one.
Who comes out on top this time around? That's easy. Whoever wants it more.
Gethin Coolbaugh is the Editor of SB Nation Boston. Twitter: @GethinCoolbaugh.