Manning Bowl III may come down to which brother has the ball last.
After a record number of close games and fourth-quarter comebacks during Week 1 of the National Football League season, two of the league’s most successful late-game quarterbacks go head-to-head this weekend as Eli Manning and the New York Giants host older brother Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
It will be the first time in NFL history that both starting quarterbacks are coming off 400-yard passing games. Peyton threw for 462 yards and a record-tying seven touchdowns in a 49-27 win over the defending Super Bowl-champion Baltimore Ravens, while Eli had 450 passing yards and four scores in the Giants’ 36-31 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
“It’s like the NBA, you can turn on the game with two minutes to go and find out if you’re going to win or lose your bet,” Jimmy Vaccaro, oddsmaker of the South Point Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, said in a telephone interview.
All but four of the 16 opening-week games were decided by seven points or less, tied for the most in any weekend in NFL history. The last time that happened was Week 3 in 2011.
There were also eight fourth-quarter comebacks in Week 1, a record for the first weekend, according to the NFL.
“It makes it a great sport to book because there’s so much interest in it and nobody knows what the hell is going to happen in the fourth quarter,” said Vaccaro, who lists the Broncos as 5-point favorites.
No player has led more fourth-quarter comebacks than Peyton Manning, who has 38, ahead of Hall of Fame quarterbacks Dan Marino, John Elway and Joe Montana. Eli Manning, who has played six fewer seasons, ranks third among active quarterbacks with 24 fourth-quarter comebacks, including 10 in the past two years.
“If you ask me who is better, I would tell you I don’t know,” Giants defensive lineman Jason Pierre-Paul told reporters this week. “We’ll see who is better come this game.”
Peyton got the better of his younger brother in their first two meetings, when he was a member of the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts won 26-21 in East Rutherford on Sept. 10, 2006, and 38-14 in Indianapolis on Sept. 19, 2010.
The Colts were favored by oddsmakers in both games, according to the handicapping information website Pregame.com.
The Broncos had been favored by three points over the Giants prior to the Week 1 games, when Peyton Manning became the first player in 44 years to throw seven touchdown passes and the Giants had six turnovers in their loss.
Peyton said this week’s matchup will have a different atmosphere than a normal game.
“The focus all week is playing a good team, on the road, a team that is coming off a division loss that you know is going to respond,” he said. “But the past two times we’ve been across the field from one another during the national anthem, you do take a moment there to realize that it’s your brother over there, who’s a quarterback for the New York Giants and in the NFL, and it’s the same kid you grew up with. It is unique. It is special.”
The demand for tickets shows that. It’s the second most-popular regular-season game on the online ticket reseller StubHub.com behind the Week 1 matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers. The average ticket price is $448, more than 27 percent higher than the Giants’ average home price of $352 this season, according to the ticket aggregator TiqIQ.
Peyton Manning needs 51 yards to join Favre and Marino as the only quarterbacks in NFL history with more than 60,000 career passing yards. Playing in his 226th NFL game, he would reach the milestone faster than any player.
With three or more touchdowns against the Giants, Peyton, 37, would also break the record of nine scoring passes through the first two weeks of a season set by Charley Johnson of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1965 and matched by Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints in 2009.
Eli, 32, leads his older brother in one category, 2-1 in Super Bowl championships. He said he’s focused more on helping the Giants get their first win of the season than on a family reunion, while appreciating the significance of the meeting.
“It’s still neat because it doesn’t happen very often and it is neat seeing your big brother on the sideline or seeing him before the game,” Eli said. “Those moments are the things you remember and we’ll remember for a long time. Hopefully when I think back on these games that we played against my brother, I can remember at least one win.”