A long history of Brady vs. Manning

The War of 1812 lasted about 2œ years.

The NFL's version -- pitting 18 ( Peyton Manning) and 12 ( Tom Brady) -- has gone on nearly four times longer.

When New England plays host to Indianapolis on Sunday, it will be the eighth consecutive season the teams have squared off. That's the longest streak among non-division opponents since realignment in 2002. And that's not counting the three postseason rematches over that span.

"There have been some great games between the Colts and the Patriots during this past decade, and Tom and I have been the quarterbacks. It's been an intense rivalry," Manning told reporters this week. "It's really hard for me just in the middle of the 2010 season to think about too much of the history."

Manning, the league's only four-time most valuable player, certainly hasn't been distracted by much this season. He has thrown for at least 300 yards in four of the Colts' five road games, an NFL record. Players with the most 300-yard passing games on the road (*active):

Peyton Manning*, 32
Brett Favre*, 29
Dan Marino, 27
Joe Montana, 25
Kurt Warner, 25

Brady, meanwhile, has won 24 consecutive regular-season home games, and he would tie Brett Favre's record of 25 with a victory over Indianapolis at Gillette Stadium. The most consecutive regular-season home games won as a starting quarterback (*active):

Brett Favre, Green Bay, 1995-98, 25
Tom Brady, New England, 2006-, 24*
John Elway, Denver, 1996-98, 22
Bob Griese, Miami, 1971-74, 20
Randall Cunningham, Philadelphia, 1990-94 20
Source: NFL?

Close quarters

It's getting crowded in here.

For the first time since realignment, no division leader has more than a one-game lead this late in a season. What's more, four divisions have ties at the top.

That has helped keep things interesting. In the AFC West, for instance, Monday's matchup between Denver and San Diego is an important one, even though the Chargers (4-5) are in third place and the Broncos (3-6) are last. Oakland and Kansas City are tied at 5-4.

Although his team has lost four of five, Coach Josh McDaniels knows the Broncos can get right back in the race with a victory.

"I know we find ourselves kind of behind at this point, but we also know that we have four division games and seven more games to play," he said. "Opportunity at this point in the season is what you ask for and what you hope for, and I think that our football team understands where it's at and the entire AFC West, I'm sure, does too."

Competitive balance is a hallmark of the NFL, yet there seems to be an unusually high number of toss-up games this season. Seven of the eight divisions have teams either leading or tied for the lead that did not win their divisions last season.

"With parity the way it is, there's no reason why any team can't turn it around and find a way to catch lightning in a bottle to go all the way," Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber told USA Today.

"I didn't think the Arizona Cardinals were going to be a great team when they went to the Super Bowl [after the 2008 season]. We're not even close to where we want to be. But we have players who care about getting there."

We meet again

Favre probably will be facing his former team for the last time Sunday when Minnesota plays host to Green Bay. It will be the fourth time he has played the Packers and, if history is a guide, he will be on his game. He has a 106.6 passing rating vs. the Packers. Favre's numbers vs. Green Bay:

Wins-losses, 2-1
Comp. pct., 64.8
Yards passing/game, 242.3
TD-INT?, 8-3


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