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Bring on the Manning Bowl!


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Brothers Peyton, Eli on pace to face each other in Super Bowl

COMMENTARY

By Bill Williamson

NBCSports.com contributor

Updated: 9:57 a.m. ET Nov. 10, 2005

Bill Williamson

The second half of the NFL season officially will be the Manning watch. In what would be one of the most-hyped, wildest sports storylines of our time, it is officially not too early to ponder a juicy thought:

Could Archie Manning’s sons meet in the Super Bowl at Detroit in February?

Yes, they very well could. Imagine the hysteria? At this point, both Manning sons should be looked at as the early November favorites to meet for the championship.

Big brother Peyton Manning, who has been heading toward a Super Bowl for years, is the toast of the NFL. He just exorcised the demons of New England, his team is 8-0 and has a legitimate chance of scaring the champagne bottles out of the 1972 Miami Dolphins. It appears that no one is going to get in the way of the Colts, who have five home games remaining.

Meanwhile, in the NFC, second-year pro Eli Manning and the New York Giants are certainly the team with the most steam in the conference. This is a generally weaker conference, so if the Giants can continue their offensive development and stout defense, they will be the NFC favorite as the season shortens.

Who’s better right now than the team that has caught afire amid the death of its beloved owner Wellington Mara? With Philadelphia falling off the cliff, there’s only a few teams with legitimate chances at this point. Atlanta, Carolina and Seattle all have decent shots. But the Giants are as good as any of those teams right now.

So bring on the Brother Bowl.

When Eli Manning joined the Giants last season, an all-Manning Super Bowl seemed so long away. First of all, the Colts still needed a defense and still needed to find a way to get past New England.

Check and check.

As for Eli, the only question was how he was going to develop in the fish bowl of New York. The answer was by winning games in the fourth quarter like he did against Denver last month.

Thus, now, the only question is when will the Manning brothers meet in the Super Bowl? For the rest of the year, the biggest question of the NFL is whether the Mannings could accomplish the stunning feat this season.

Vikings righting ship?

It makes sense. They lose their franchise quarterback for at least a calendar year and they may be improved?

Doesn’t make sense.

But did you ever think things were sane in Minnesota?

In a year of devastating injury, serious off-field scandals and overall misery, the Vikings had their season highlight last week with a throttling of Detroit using the controlled offense of journeyman quarterback Brad Johnson. The team is 3-5 and has to think it has a chance in the wickedly porous NFC North. Really, are the 5-3 Bears equipped to run away with anything?

It would be amazing for the Vikings to actually be in the hunt after all that has happened and with coach Mike Tice likely to be fired at the end of the season. Add the fact that Daunte Culpepper suffered the worst possible knee injury a player can have and one would think Minnesota’s year was long gone.

Minnesota, which plays at the Giants on Sunday, was more relaxed and efficient with Johnson at the helm than it has been all season. This is certainly not to say Johnson is better than Culpepper. But because the team knew it couldn’t get fancy and had to execute, it was much better prepared than in the freewheeling, more explosive offense used by Culpepper.

The Vikings had to rely on the running game, and Michael Bennett answered with a 100-yard performance. If this team is to have a chance, it must continue the ball-control approach. That’s how Johnson won a Super Bowl. So we know he’s up to it.

Still, can it last, or was this a one-game diversion from what will be a total deconstruction of a franchise?

Eagles now unified

Last season, the Eagles prided themselves by winning after Terrell Owens went down with a knee injury. T.O. may have gotten them in the position to make a Super Bowl run, but the Eagles went through December and the playoffs without their injured star. They made it on their own.

This week, the Eagles have remembered that feeling that it had as it rallied around their injured teammate — who at the time was not the hated pariah he is now in the locker room. Once again, the Eagles have to do it without T.O.

But they have to do it for good. He won’t be back. And there is a different feeling about him. No longer will they be trying to win for T.O., they’ll be trying to win in spite of him.

It just may work.

This is a guy who reportedly challenged all 52 of his teammates to a brawl. This is a guy, who despite all of his wonderful talent, was a welcomed ouster when coach Andy Reid pulled the plug on him.

The Eagles are sick of him. So maybe being rid of T.O. will ignite the Eagles (4-4), who host Dallas on Monday night in a game they desperately need to win. After all, they know they can win without him. They did it before.

Learning to win

Not that the Steelers want to start making a habit of this, but they will be much better late in the season because of the knee injury suffered by wunderkid QB Ben Roethlisberger.

Pittsburgh has been forced to win without their cog. They’ll only be better for it when Roethlisberger returns in the next couple of weeks from a knee injury.

Remarkably, in his second NFL season, Roethlisberger has become as indispensable as any player in the NFL. He simply controls the team. He took over as an injury-replacement for Tommy Maddox last season and finished with the greatest rookie year in the history of the NFL.

Roethlisberger’s uncanny command of the team continued this season. Three weeks ago, when Roethlisberger missed his first game against Jacksonville, the Steelers were out of whack all game and ultimately lost in overtime.

Last week, however, the Steelers were able to win without their young star as they outmuscled Green Bay for a tough road win. Charlie Batch was efficient enough and the Pittsburgh defense was smoldering. It wasn’t easy, but the Steelers won without Roethlisberger. Now, they’ll likely do it again in a Sunday night home game against Cleveland.

The win over the Packers gave the Steelers confidence they can win without Roethlisberger. When they get him back for the stretch run, they’ll be even more ready to take the next step with him, now that they know they can win without him.

Bill Williamson writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Broncos and the NFL for the Denver Post.

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The NFL wants this so bad.....I have no doubt they will do everything in their power to make it so.

Sheesh, they already gave the Giants a favorable schedule plus an extra home game.[/Quote]

Ok, they gave them an extra home game but how did they give them a favorable schedule? They have their toughest part coming up and finish with 4 out of the last 6 on the road.

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I think he meant a favorable early season schedule. For instance, what should a playoff contending team's record be if this was the first half of their schedule:

1 @ Balt.

2 JAX

3 Clev

4 @ TEN

5 @ SF

6 St. Louis

7 @ Houston

8 @ NE

Realistically, a quality team should be at least 6-2 with this schedule, but reasonably could be 7-1 or 8-0. Guess who IS 8-0 with that schedule?

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