Friday, January 17, 2014

Wilt! Get It?

Today's column by Shank looks at Peyton Manning and his performances in playoff games, and speculates on Manning's performance on Sunday against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
Peyton Manning can’t afford to wilt now

Patriots fans think the Patriots are going to win Sunday because they are confident Tom Brady will play better than Peyton Manning in any big game.

Manning will choke.

That’s the book.

A case can be made that, excluding Super Bowls, this AFC Championship is the biggest, grandest, most-hyped NFL contest of the last 50 years. It’s the 15th playing of the NFL’s 1812 Overture. Bill Belichick has a chance to tie Tom Landry as the winningest playoff coach in NFL history. Brady is already the winningest quarterback in postseason history (18 victories as a starter), and with one more championship, he can join Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw in the exclusive four-ring club.
Fair enough. Shank, however, overstates a few facts to support his column.
It’s amazing. Manning has morphed into Wilt Chamberlain. Despite all the awards (Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year in 2013) and commercials, he is disrespected on a par with no athlete this side of Alex Rodriguez.
Except that this statement isn't true with Manning's peers:
As part of ESPN's NFL Nation Confidential survey of more than 320 players, the questions were asked, "If you had to start a team with one player, whom would it be?" and "Which player do you respect the most?"

And Manning was the top choice for both.

Manning was the leading vote-getter as first pick to start a team, with 62 votes (19 percent). Andrew Luck, who replaced Manning in Indianapolis, received 56 votes, and Tom Brady was third with 41 votes.
More from Shank:
Oh, and you know the rest of it. Imagine how great Tom Brady would be if he’d had Manning’s receivers through the years. Tom never had Reggie Wayne or Marvin Harrison.
Except that Tom had, over the years (among others) Troy Brown, Wes Welker, Randy Moss, Gronk and Aaron Hernandez. Not exactly third-tier receivers and tight ends.
Manning never had the defenses that Brady had in New England.
I don't recall the Colts having bad defenses, and when you throw in names like Dwight Freeney and Bob Sanders, you could say that the Colts had pretty good defenses. With Denver, their defense has improved during the year and played well against San Diego last week.

You almost get the sense that Shank's backtracking a bit from Wednesday's column.

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