(Reuters) - Peyton Manning and Tom Brady will renew their storied rivalry in Sunday’s AFC title game but the clash will be unlike any other as it may be the last between two of the National Football League’s greatest quarterbacks.
When Manning leads his Denver Broncos onto the field to face the New England Patroits he will be two months shy of his 40th birthday and playing what could be the final game of a career that includes a Super Bowl win, five most valuable player awards and numerous passing records.
So if this is the final NFL season for Manning, who has been plagued by both injury and questionable form recently, then it is only fitting that he will have to get by the Brady-led Patriots to get a shot at another Super Bowl title.
“It’ll be the Broncos vs. the Patriots,” Manning said after Sunday’s victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. “We’ll enjoy this one tonight. I think you knew that answer was coming. I’ll be talking about them on Wednesday.”
While Manning’s latest victory was far from the prettiest of his illustrious career, it was enough to set up a mouthwatering matchup that, barring injury, will ensure one of the NFL’s marquee names will be featured in Super Bowl 50.
Brady, 38, has won 11 of 16 career meetings versus Manning but the future Hall of Fame quarterbacks are 2-2 in postseason matchups. Manning, however, holds a 2-1 edge in conference title games versus Brady.
The only difference going into this clash is that Brady, who won his fourth Super Bowl title last year, is still playing at the top of his game while Manning is relying more on his veteran savvy trying to rediscover his old form.
Manning refused to get philosophical about the upcoming clash with his biggest nemesis, but his Denver teammates were happy to chime in.
“It’s two bigwigs going against each other, arguably the two best quarterbacks in their era,” Broncos defensive end Antonio Smith said. “We all know that. And, sometimes, even as a player, you will take a minute to sit back in the game and watch their greatness.”
Brady has four Super Bowl wins in six appearances while Manning has one win in three trips to the NFL’s championship game.
When Brady was asked on Monday about Manning he said he maintains a friendship with the Broncos quarterback but that he’s not sure he’d be in touch with him prior to Sunday’s meeting on the field.
“We’ve known each other for a long time, being in the same profession for all these years and at different events, we’ve developed a good friendship,” Brady said during his weekly appearance on Boston’s sports radio station WEEI.
“It’s pretty remarkable for him, what he’s accomplished this season.
“It will be fun to play another Peyton Manning-led team.”
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Steve Keating