Peyton Manning already resides in the pantheon of gridiron greats. He has all the physical and mental tools to play quarterback, he has set many pro football records and he has a history of success. The only thing missing from his resume is more Super Bowl triumphs.
Manning, 37, will get his chance at a second ring this year when he leads the Denver Broncos against the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII. Denver rolls into the contest with the NFL’s top offense, while Seattle has allowed the fewest points all season. It’s a historic clash, marking the first Super Bowl since 1991 pitting the league’s highest-scoring team in the regular season against the team that was scored on the least. It’s also only the second time in the last 20 Super Bowls that the No. 1 seed in each conference reached the championship game.
Many onlookers around the globe are captivated by Manning’s offensive exploits. For Cayman fans like Lori Moncrieffe, another title is in the offing.
“My favorite NFL team would have to be the New York Giants,” Moncrieffe said. “As a Yankees fan, something about that New York blue draws me to cheer for them. Who do I think will win the Super Bowl? Broncos. They are the heavy favorites because of the explosive and potent offense they have. Although the Seahawks have a strong defense, Peyton has shown all season he can guide his offense past any defense. The big question is going to be whether the Broncos defense can suppress the Seahawks offense rather than if Peyton and the offense can score.”
The numbers speak for themselves. Manning set new single-season NFL records with 55 touchdowns and 5,477 passing yards as the Broncos averaged a ridiculous 37.9 points and 457.3 yards per game.
For all of their defensive clout, Seattle is a big underdog. In spite of the fact the Seahawks allowed an average of 14.4 points and 273.6 yards, skeptics point to the Seahawks’ undersized QB Russell Wilson, 25, as being too inexperienced in just his second pro season and not explosive enough to match Manning.
The Seahawks are also overshadowed from a historical standpoint. Seattle has played in only one other Super Bowl, in 2006, which resulted in a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Denver will be playing in its seventh Super Bowl and eyeing a third title, to go with those from 1998 and 1999.
But there are many who believe Manning is not destined to hoist the Lombardi trophy this year. Among them are Caymanians Ernesto Ebanks (a New England Patriots supporter) and Joseph Byrd Jr. (who backs the New York Giants).
“I’m a Boston Red Sox and Boston Celtics fan that didn’t know much about football, so when I decided to start watching, I figured I’d stick with a Boston team if they had one,” Ebanks said. “I’m picking the Seahawks. They are more dynamic, and Manning has a tendency to choke.
“I’m indifferent to him winning, though it would put the (Tom) Brady versus Manning competition to sleep. For all the achievements he’s had, he’s only led a team to just one ring. And this year, with the offense that the Broncos have put in place for him, anything but the ring would be a disappointment. This is a team built to win the Super Bowl.”
“I like the Seahawks as they are a young team going up against a veteran team and they have more to prove,” Byrd Jr. said. “I mean, even with the win over the San Francisco 49ers – who were a sure pick for this Super Bowl – they are the underdogs.”
The career path to chilly MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, is an intriguing one for Manning, the sport’s only four-time Most Valuable Player. His series of neck surgeries led him to sit out the entire 2011 season. His old club, the Indianapolis Colts, had benefited from two Super Bowl appearances with Manning – including a title in 2007 – but fearing the end of his career, allowed him to leave and sign with the Broncos. In his 16th year, Manning defied the odds and proved he has plenty left in the tank.
In addition, Manning is surely impacted by sibling rivalry. His brother, Eli, led New York to two titles, and this year’s championship game is being played at the Giants’ home field, marking the first Super Bowl to be played outdoors at a cold-weather site.
On one hand, fans like Moncrieffe write off the importance sibling rivalry or the weather will have on Manning.
“I feel good about Peyton. He will guide the Broncos to a win, I would be surprised if they do not win the Super Bowl. I don’t think the weather is going to have a major impact on him seeing that the Broncos’ home field is outdoors in weather conditions similar to New York. Overall, it should be a great game.”
Then again, for the likes of Byrd Jr., Manning’s legacy is affected by all of the Super Bowl subplots.
“Now with Peyton coming to Eli’s house to win a ring, it is really just dumb luck. I mean, he is playing with drive this year, going up for all the records, overshadowing them and then beating the Patriots. He has a lot of good play left in him and I think he is trying hard to show up his brother. The cherry on the cake would be to do so in Eli’s house.”