ENGLEWOOD, Colo. - Peyton Manning loves Eli's game, and not just because he's his little brother.
As a fellow NFL quarterback, he appreciates the way Eli has improved every year despite an ever-changing supporting cast, all while working under the bright glare of Broadway.
Oh, and those two Super Bowl rings are pretty sweet, too.
Big brother has just one of those.
The siblings square off Sunday at MetLife Stadium, the third — and quite possibly last — time they'll face each other in the pros. Peyton came out on top in the first two, with his old team, the Indianapolis Colts, beating the New York Giants in 2006 and '10.
Peyton, 37, sees Eli, 32, through the dual prism of blood and quarterback brotherhood, and he's thoroughly impressed by the view.
"Eli is a great player," Peyton said. "He's a consistent player. I think he's gotten better every year. I've always thought that's the goal for a brand new player is to try to be a better player each year than the year you were before. He's made things happen with different players, different receivers and different running backs. He's been very flexible to adjust to the different players that he's played with. But his consistency as a player has been awfully impressive."
The Mannings talk twice a week on average — last season they played the same divisions in the NFC and AFC, so they shared notes on those common opponents.
"Usually we'll talk on Sunday or Monday after the previous game and then we'll kind of talk maybe Thursday or Friday kind of about the upcoming game," Peyton said. "We've always done that. We'll share."
Not this week.
They both said there was no football dialogue leading up to Manning Bowl III, just the typical bantering among brothers.
There's been enough chatter from everyone else. Aside from the "first family of football" angle, this is the first game in NFL history pitting quarterbacks who threw for 400-plus yards the previous week.
Peyton threw for 462 yards and tied an NFL record with seven touchdown passes against Baltimore. Like Peyton, Eli also completed 27 of 42 throws, and he accumulated 450 yards at Dallas but had three interceptions to go with four TDs.
"The past two times we have, for whatever reason, lined up across from each other during the National Anthem," Peyton said. "So, you do take a moment to realize that it is your brother over there that is a quarterback for the New York Giants in the NFL and it is the same person that you grew up with. So it is unique and I think you do take a moment to realize that it is special.
"But once the game gets started ... you go out there and just play."
The lead-up is another story altogether.
Peyton noted that he didn't field a single question about the Giants defence on his conference call with New York media until he raised the issue himself.
"I think that not many people, other players on either team, care a lot about it," Peyton said. "I do take a little personal time for reflection. Playing against your brother in an NFL game, it's a little bit different than playing against him in Little League baseball."
It seems as though everyone likes to compare the Mannings. Except the Mannings. They leave it to others to argue who's the superior quarterback, the better performer in the clutch, the leading pitchman, even.
"We pull for each other," Peyton said. "We play the same sport. We have the same job. So we certainly can relate to a lot of the same things that quarterbacks go through. We worked out together this off-season a couple of times, which is always fun. We try to help each other in the off-season."
They insist they don't have that typical sibling rivalry where they're always trying to one up each other.
"Eli and I end up being partners a lot in golf, to tell you the truth. We're close," Peyton said.
Eli echoes Peyton when he says this is not a competition between the brothers but their teams.
"For me, if you say I'm better or say I'm worse, I'm not going to be upset either way," Eli said. "I'm trying to get wins and do my job."
Same as Peyton.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
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