It's rare that Tom Brady plays second fiddle to anyone in a football-related discussion, but that's what's happened again as his Patriots are set to face the Denver Broncos for the second time in as many months.
Dominating the discussion, of course, has been Broncos second-year QB Tim Tebow. So, in this week's debate, the topic seemed obvious to us:
Which player is more crucial to his team's fortunes on Saturday -- Tom Brady or Tim Tebow?
Read the arguments from the Patriots Football Weekly writers, then cast your vote in our Samsonite Make Your Case poll.
Erik Scalavino says, "Tebow ..."
As much as I like Tebow, the person, I acknowledge that he still has a long, long, llllooooong way to go as a football player before he reaches Brady's level. Even on a bad day, Brady is still a much better quarterback than probably 75 percent of the signal callers in the league. So, if Brady isn't at his best this Saturday night, the Patriots will still likely score enough points to get the job done.
Tebow, on the other hand, is the emotional heart and soul of the Broncos. When he has struggled, so has Denver. When he's risen to the occasion, the Broncos have as well. New England's defense has been porous this year, but they've shown moxie and playmaking potential at times – particularly in the team's win in Denver last month, when they adjusted to stop the run and forced Tebow into making costly turnovers.
How different would Dec. 18's game have been if Tebow were on top of his game? We might get an idea on Saturday, if Tebow steps up the way he did last week against Pittsburgh.
I have a modicum of faith in the Patriots' ability to win even if Brady has a bad day. I can't say the same for Denver if Tebow does. That, to me, makes Tebow more critical to his team's success than Brady.
Paul Perillo says, "Brady ..."
Any team is going to have a tough time winning, especially in the playoffs, if its quarterback doesn't play well. But the Patriots fortunes are tied much closer to Brady's success than Denver's are to Tebow.
First, Brady doesn't have the luxury of trying to win the game without scoring a lot of points. The Patriots won once all season while scoring fewer than 27 points. The Broncos win that way routinely. Tebow has five wins this season while putting less than 20 points on the scoreboard. So if he's not quite up to par, Denver has proven it can win in other ways.
Thus far in 2011 New England has been unable to do so. The defense has struggled and has come to rely on the offense to put points up and suffocate opponents into submission. In order for that to happen, Brady has to be sharp.
Also, the Patriots running game hasn't been in the habit of taking over and making life easier on the quarterback. If Brady is off, chances are the ground attack won't be able to offset that lack of production. That's exactly how Denver wants to play, and Tebow would be more than content to hand it off all night long.
Brady's situation is not like most elite quarterbacks. Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and New Orleans' Drew Brees are the focal points of their teams. Like Brady, they can't afford an off game in the postseason. And like those stars, much more is expected of them than the average quarterback.
For those reasons, Brady is more critical to the Patriots success Saturday night.
Your turn! Cast your vote in this week's Samsonite Make Your Case poll.