Is Eli Manning Better Than Peyton? And Other Questions Following Championship Sunday

Is Eli Manning better than Peyton? Looking back at the day that was and forward to the Super Bowl with that question and six others from Sunday.

Get ready to see the David Tyree catch over and over. And over. Super Bowl XLVI is 2008 again.

Well, not really, but the Giants and Patriots are back in the Super Bowl, a rematch of the classic Super Bowl XLII. Our worlds will shrink to the distance between Boston and New York, and consumers of sports media will spend the next two weeks in a time machine.

We've got plenty of time to relive the game from five years ago and overanalyze this year's game in Indianapolis. For now, here's seven questions to consider before you get so tired of hype that the best part of the Super Bowl will be that it's over.

1. The Packers defense wasn't good enough to get to a Super Bowl...but the Patriots' was?

I've seen the shows where, retroactively, pundits and experts said there was no way a defense as bad as Green Bay's could make the Super Bowl, let alone win. I may or may not be one of those pundits (I honestly can't remember).

So that means the action will be heavy on the Giants, right? Or maybe, before, we just needed something to talk about.

2. So does Joe Flacco get a certificate or something?

Wanna see the limitations of evaluating a quarterback purely in terms of wins and losses? Flacco got the ball with two timeouts and 1:44 on the clock and took his team down the field. He picked apart a secondary that prominently featured a wide receiver we'd never heard of two years ago. Then, he put the ball right in Lee Evans' hands, only to have it knocked out by a former practice squad player. The next play, he does his best to throw the game away and was nearly picked off. Next comes Billy Cundiff's induction into infamy.

So did he do his part? He was as close to doing so as he was to undoing it all. It was his best postseason performance. He outplayed Brady and did as much as anyone could ask a quarterback to do. But next January, if Baltimore reaches the postseason, they'll have to answer one question: can Joe Flacco win the big one?

Sure, that makes sense.

3. How hard must it be to be a professional placekicker?

It looks simple. It can't be that hard. But there are only 32 NFL placekicking jobs, and there never seems to be enough qualified applicants to fill them all. And no matter the circumstances, short of a blocked kick, misses are their fault. At the biggest moments, they face the most pressure, even though they're probably the least equipped to handle it.

Cundiff blew it. He missed a kick he should have made. But he can confidently say no one else on his sideline could have done any better.

4. Did Peyton Manning pick a bad year to sit out or what?

Of course, this wasn't Peyton's preference, but look at everything that's happened. The Colts have the No. 1 pick and privilege of selecting the one prospect, maybe the only one in the last 25 years, who would guarantee Manning won't play for Indianapolis next year. Tom Brady, his chief rival, reached his fifth Super Bowl. And now, people are actually considering whether little brother Eli is better than him. Or would be better if he won a Super Bowl. Either way, Eli could bypass the "same sentence" as Peyton and go straight to the head of the family. Sure Peyton's rooting for the Giants? That makes me think you've never met any middle children.

5. But really, is Eli better?

His best doesn't approach Peyton's. His worst is lower than his brother's. Two of Eli's teams came together at the absolute right time, but he's got as many seasons quarterbacking teams to less than 10 wins (two) as Peyton had in four more seasons. Eli may have better timing, but there isn't a soul who would have traded him for his older brother before this season. Not even a second Super Bowl MVP would vault No. 10 over a sure-fire Hall of Famer.

Eli has two overtime road wins in classic NFC Championship games. But not even those moments trump the body of Peyton Manning's 13-year body of work.

6. I'm sorry, was there some mystery as to whether Ray Lewis was going to play next season?

Don't you remember what Lewis said would happen if the lockout took the game away from people?

"Evil," he told ESPN's Sal Paolontonio, "which is what we call ‘crime.'" When asked why, Ray responded immediately.

"There's nothing else to do, Sal."

Now, ask yourself: do you need football more than Ray Lewis? Well, he thought you'd start a crime wave without it. And you think he was just going to walk away? Now?

My guess is he'll play until he physically can't get on the field. Then, he'll be on the team until someone gets the courage to tell him he's been released. Which could be another two years.

7. Madonna's not gonna wear anything scandalous at the Super Bowl, is she?

I know it's two weeks away, but seriously, whose idea was this? We're stuck with dinosaur acts at halftime because Janet and Justin messed it up for everyone. But it's stuff like the wardrobe malfunction is why anyone wanted to see Madonna perform in her prime. Now, in her twilight? Seriously, whose idea was this?

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