Today’s game between Indianapolis and New England is, in large part, about Peyton Manning’s legacy. The Indianapolis quarterback needs to win and conquer his personal white whale.
But in some ways it’s also about the legacy of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, whose resumé already has a nice gloss.
Brady isn’t a big fan of the media spotlight. He shook his head this week when he was asked if he thought he was being overlooked heading into today’s game because of the Manning angle.
"I have had way too much attention over the last three years to ever think that," Brady said. "I mean, no way. No way."
Brady is 5-0 against the Colts in his career, completing 67 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns and only four interceptions. It was the Colts and Manning who lost 44-13 to the Patriots in Brady’s first start ever in 2001.
Remember that game? New England was 0-2, Drew Bledsoe was injured, and there was no way this inexperienced one-time sixth-round pick was going to do anything.
A little more than three years later, Brady’s career is already talked about in Hall-of-Fame terms. If he triumphs over Manning once again today, well, he’ll have cemented his spot above Manning no matter what statistics Manning churns out.
"I think the individual matchup between quarterbacks never really plays out," Brady said. "When you play in playoff games, the quarterback who plays better usually wins the game. I do know that when you play very good teams, making mistakes, they just get multiplied. When you play a guy like Peyton, you don’t want to give him the ball too much."
Besides, when Manning doesn’t have the ball, that means Brady does — and that usually means the Patriots win.
Star Jets defensive end John Abraham didn’t play again Saturday. His right knee sprain wouldn’t let him.
Abraham’s injury highlighted a dilemma for NFL players and their non-guaranteed contracts. Abraham will be a free agent. Abraham had been expected to gut it out in the Jets’ playoff game against San Diego, and when he didn’t, some criticized him for putting personal concerns over the team.
Before the Chargers game, Abraham was asked about balancing the desire to play against his potential future cash, Abraham said it was "kind of a Catch-22 situation."
Cardinals media relations director Mark Dalton, who once worked for the Bills, remembered one player talking about how in the long run, playing hurt didn’t help. Sure, the team might give him kudos in the short term for gutting it out while playing at 75 percent, but come contract time, all the team would point to was how the player had under-performed in that game.
Abraham, who stands to make millions with his new pact, probably can’t take that risk. Few people would.
FORGET THE PAST
It’s a big day for Eagles receiver Todd Pinkston today. He averaged 18.8 yards a catch this season, but that success was tarnished when he shied away from middle-of-the-field contact in three late-season plays. That comes on the heels of smallish Carolina cornerback Ricky Manning pushing him around the field in last year’s NFC Championship loss. And it isn’t good news for a team hoping to overcome the loss of star wideout Terrell Owens.
"Now everybody is (saying), ‘Hey, what’s Todd Pinkston going to do? Get rid of him.’ " Pinkston said. "I don’t worry about that."
Said quarterback Donovan McNabb, "I think (the passing game) is going to be awesome. I think we’re going to open up some eyes."
• Panthers linebacker Mark Fields, an unrestricted free agent, on coming back to the team that stood by him through his 2003 battle with Hodgkin’s disease: "This team could give me $2 and I’ll be inking."
• Giants coach Tom Coughlin, on whether his taskmaster reputation will cost New York in the battle for free agents: "Here’s the way it usually goes; we sit across from the player and I say, ‘Now, you have to understand we work here. We work hard at this game and at winning.’ Normally they look across from me and say, ‘Isn’t that what a football player is supposed to do?’ "
• According to NFLPA figures, six teams must trim contracts to get under the $85 million salary cap by March 1: Tennessee ($26 million over), Miami ($17 million), Atlanta ($12 million), Tampa Bay ($12 million), Kansas City ($10 million) and Green Bay ($3 million).
• If long shot Jim Schwartz, the Titans’ defensive coordinator, gets the head coaching job with the 49ers (he interviewed Friday), former Cardinals coach Dave McGinnis will have a good chance of being promoted from linebackers coach to coordinator for Tennessee.
• Saints coach Jim Haslett will be only the fourth coach since 1990 to keep his job after four straight nonplayoff seasons, along with Tennessee’s Jeff Fisher (1995-98), Cincinnati’s David Shula (1992-96) and Washington’s Norv Turner (1992-96).
• Pittsburgh: Which 15-1 team do the Steelers join in history? The Super Bowl-winning 49ers (1984) and Bears (1985), or the disappointing 1998 Vikings?
• Bill Belichick: He may say it’s not his job to pull weeds, but everyone knows the Patriots coach dictated how Gillette Stadium field was treated last week.
• San Francisco: With Matt Leinart staying in school, time to find a new No. 1 draft pick.
• Randy Moss: Yet controversy doesn’t seem to affect play of Vikings receiver.