Foxborough, Mass. - As expected, much of the talk surrounding Sunday's AFC Divisional Playoff game between the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts is centered on the match up between quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. While Brady holds a 5-0 lifetime record in the series, it's his counterpart Manning who appears directly under the quarterback spotlight leading up to the game.
It would be difficult for anyone to duplicate the level of exposure surrounding Manning, who was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player by the Associated Press Monday after setting single-season records for touchdown passes and quarterback rating this season. Manning broke Dan Marino's single-season record with 49 touchdown passes in 2004, throwing for a career-high 4,557 yards with just 10 interceptions for a passer rating of 121.1 to become just the third player to win the award in consecutive seasons. His season was so convincing he received 47 of 48 first place votes in the balloting.
While every defensive player in the Patriots locker room holds Manning in the highest regard, it's dually noted that Brady, a two-time Super Bowl MVP, is the quarterback who might actually receive less media attention this week as the teams prepare to meet.
"We don't worry about getting publicity from you guys," veteran safety Rodney Harrison said. "Whenever you play against Peyton [Manning], the whole topic is Peyton [Manning]. That's the focus of the attention, is Peyton Manning, not Tom Brady. That's okay. Tom, he's a laid back guy. He really doesn't care about that. All he does is [he's] a two-time Super Bowl MVP. He just gets the job done time and time again. So we respect Tom, and the people that really, truly matter, he understands that we respect him. It's not about really getting all the attention like some other people."
Regardless of who receives the most attention, or from where, recent meetings between the quarterbacks have been one-sided. Manning is in an elite class statistically, as the only NFL quarterback with six consecutive 4,000-yard seasons and the league leader in passing yards and touchdowns since 1998. However he is 2-8 lifetime against the Patriots, losing the last four meetings and all five career match ups on the road. Brady, who lacks some of the gaudy numbers, owns a perfect 6-0 career record in playoff games to go with his dazzling 48-14 career record, including the win over Mannings' Colts in last year's AFC Championhip. He was asked Tuesday if he admired what Manning has accomplished this season.
"He's the leader of that offense, he's the leader of that team," Brady said. "I think what the quarterback tries to do is he tries to communicate what his coaches want and to go out there on the field and act like a coach on the field and go out and execute. It seems like the efficiency of that offense is better than it's ever been, in the history of the league. It's shown in how many games they've won, it has shown in the type of offensive statistics they've put up. It's very impressive."
In any case, Sunday's game might require two spotlights. Brady, standing at the podium inside the media workroom at Gillette Stadium, weighed in on the issue, saying he doesn't feel as if he's being overlooked.
"I've had way too much attention over the last three years to ever think that," Brady said. "I mean, no way."
Talking About the Weather
It's a decent bet the weather conditions at Gillette Stadium for Sunday's playoff game at will be a hot topic up until game time. Although both teams will be forced to play in the same conditions, the weather topic will be more ominous for the Colts, who play inside at the RCA Dome. Despite the notion, the Colts are 18-9 on the road since the beginning of the 2002 season, with all but road two wins coming in outdoors games.
"It's really mental," Indianapolis head coach Tony Dungy said. "We can prepare for it. We're going to walk around in it. There's no formula that just because it's going to be cold the home team has to win."
The latest weather forecast calls for highs in the low 30's on Sunday. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday he isn't going to be concerned with any less-than-perfect conditions until the day of the game. In New England, all predictions are out the window.
"I've been down that road before," cautioned Belichick. "You stand up there in front of the team and tell them, 'It looks like we're going to get a big snow storm. Let's do this and lets do that.' Then you walk out there on Sunday and it's 60 degrees. They look at you like you're a moron. I think trying to predict the weather three or four or five days in advance at this time of year is low percentage.
"We've played in all the conditions. I think when you're in New England and you're playing this time of the year in January, you better be ready for just about anything. You just don't know what you're going to get this time of year. I don't think it's something you worry about. You just deal with it when the time comes."
Quick HitsBelichick held a 10:45 a.m. press conference Tuesday, followed by media access to the players in the Patriots locker room. Brady met with the press at 11:45 a.m. ... Harrison, Samuel, tight end Christian Fauria, kicker Adam Vinatieriand defensive end Jarvis Green were a few of the players who spoke with the press. ... Defensive end Richard Seymour was not present in the locker room during the media access period. ... Brady cracked one of the more memorable lines of the season Tuesday when asked about his relationship with center Dan Koppen, saying it was different because "We spend a lot of time together. I got my hands on (his) you-know-what the whole day. It is special." ... Belichick indicated the Patriots might hold some workouts inside Gillette Stadium during the week depending on the weather conditions as they prepare for Sunday's game. ... Belichick will meet with the press again Wednesday at 10:45 a.m. His press conferences can be heard live on Patriots.com. ... John Oehser of Colts.com is reporting today that second-year defensive end Robert Mathis, who had a career-high 10.5 sacks this season, is "not likely" to play against the Patriots because of a sprained knee.