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Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are trying to play their way past scandals

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But Brady has erased the stains DeflateGate left on his legacy, whereas Manning isn't in position to do the same regarding to his alleged HGH use.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

On Feb. 1 2015, Tom Brady engineered a second-half comeback to win his fourth Super Bowl, tying childhood idol Joe Montana for the most all time among quarterbacks. And the accomplishment was trumped by deflated footballs. That's the kind of year it's been for Brady.

For the first time since last season's AFC Championship, Brady's play helped push DeflateGate out of the headlines this season. Just days before his 17th and likely final duel against Peyton Manning, Brady has erased the stains DeflateGate left on his legacy. The same can't be said for Manning, who probably won't play well enough or long enough to expunge any suppositions that might exist about him after Al Jazeera's report that human growth hormone was sent to his house while he was recovering from neck surgery in 2011.

That's not to say the HGH allegations against Manning are any more plausible than the NFL's insistence that Brady was "involved in a scheme" to illegally deflate footballs. Charles Sly, the pharmaceutical intern who says in Al Jazeera's documentary HGH was shipped to Manning's home in his wife's name, redacted his claims shortly after the video was released.

Brady has been playing arguably the best football of his career with properly inflated footballs. Manning, meanwhile, might be playing the final game of his career Sunday.

Since the Colts tested a Patriots football on the sideline last January, Brady has gone 15-4, thrown 44 touchdowns and went 9 for 9 on a game-winning Super Bowl drive. If that resume isn't impressive enough, he also beat the NFL in federal court.

The last year hasn't gone nearly as well for Manning on the field. Though he was only able to play in 10 games this season due to various injuries, he still managed to throw the second-most interceptions in the league (17) and posted the worst quarterback rating among all starters (67.9).

Manning's rapid decline can be traced back to last December, when he threw four touchdown passes, six interceptions and averaged an 80.0 passer rating over the final five games of the season, including the playoffs. Though he didn't turn the ball over during the Broncos' Divisional round win over the Steelers, Denver ran the ball 33 times. Perhaps Manning's best throw of the night should've probably been called back, too, considering he appeared to give himself up in the pocket before he released the football.

It's possible no further information about Manning's alleged ties to HGH will ever come to the surface. The national media has largely ignored the story so far and Jim Nantz event went as far as to say he won't talk about it on the air.

But in today's media climate, that's hardly a guarantee. There remains the chance this story could dominate the offseason if any outlets decide to dig on it.

If Manning's closing act is remembered fondly, it will be due to the goodwill he's built over the years with fans and media alike. But in Brady's case, his play will have to speak for itself.