Eli Manning

Joe Flacco has last laugh after vindicating Super Bowl victory

When Joe Flacco said he thought he was the best quarterback in the NFL in a radio interview last April, most people thought he was crazy.

I know I did.

It was like saying Crocs had the most swag in the market when they came out.

Eli Manning went through the same type of scrutiny when he claimed that he was one of the quarterback "elites" in 2011, and he had to win the Super Bowl just to prove that claim. Surely, Flacco knew better than to make an assertion that exceeded a two-time Super Bowl champion.

But throughout the season I watched, as did others who doubted, as Flacco outperformed his opponents, defeating supposed superiors throughout the postseason and amid the purple and white confetti it was he who held the Lombardi Trophy, smiling as if to say, “I told you so.”

After throwing for 1,140 yards, 11 touchdowns and no interceptions throughout the playoffs and earning Super Bowl MVP honors, Flacco proved his claim with the best postseason performance by any quarterback since Joe Montana in 1989.

Here's that list of quarterbacks who I thought were better than Flacco, and how Flacco proved me wrong. In short, the five-year quarterback out of the University of Delaware went mad scientist on everybody, and it was he who had the last laugh.

Quarterbacks better than Flacco (as of last April)

1. Aaron Rodgers
For one, I don’t see Flacco saving anyone money on their auto insurance. Secondly, he needs to earn MVP status before he passes Rodgers. With 45 touchdowns and six interceptions on the year, Rodgers put up video game-like numbers, leading the Packers to a 15-1 season. One of the few flaws to his season came in the Divisional Playoffs, being outplayed by Eli Manning, another quarterback seeking elite status.
Why Not:
As reigning Super Bowl MVP, Flacco earned the status I said was necessary. In contrast to Rodgers, his video game-like numbers came in the postseason with 1,140 yards, 11 touchdowns and no interceptions in four games; the best playoffs performance by a quarterback since Joe Montana in 1989. There are three quarterbacks in NFL history who everyone wants to be compared to: Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana, and John Elway. Flacco’s got one. But unlike Rodgers, he won’t be saving anyone money with the contract he will be receiving.

2. Drew Brees
After breaking Dan Marino’s single-season passing record that had stood for 27 years, I thought Brees was on his way to being named league MVP. Like Rodgers, Brees has proved essential to the team’s success, bringing it from the bottom of the NFC South to Super Bowl champions only two years ago. With 5,476 yards and 46 touchdowns on the season, Brees has stated a better case for being named “the best” along with his leadership role with his teammates.
Why Not:
Brees had almost the same success in the 2012 season as he had in the year prior, and his team missed the playoffs. Although they were without Sean Payton for the year, I still believe that disproves my theory of Brees’ vitality to the team’s success, or at least diminishes it. However, Brees just may be the closest argument to Flacco’s claim. Brees threw the ball almost 140 more times than Flacco, and without the consistent running game and defense that Baltimore possesses, New Orleans was in more of a position to pass the ball more frequently. There are many arguments that can be made for Brees’ case against Flacco, but Flacco can always play the “I’m the Super Bowl MVP” trump card. We are talking about the present, anyway.

3. Tom Brady
Although Flacco outperformed Brady in the AFC Championship (2011), one cannot argue against the consistency that Brady has had. Throughout the season (2011), Tom Brady’s performance in the AFC Championship was the only game in which he threw for more interceptions than touchdowns. Although Brady is in a more pass-oriented system that has given him 70 more attempts than Flacco, he has completed around 10 percent more of his passes and threw the same number of interceptions.
Why Not:
Flacco has not only once again outplayed Tom Brady in the postseason, but improved his completion percentage, pulling within three points of Brady. Flacco also showed maturity throughout the postseason, completing deep passes that he normally would have thrown inaccurately, such as the 70-yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones that sent the Ravens into overtime with the Denver Broncos.

4. Peyton Manning
Even with three neck surgeries in a span of 19 months hanging a veil of uncertainty over his future, Peyton Manning is higher up the ladder than Flacco. Manning is almost his own offense. He is crazy smart and picks defenses apart. Earlier I discussed how essential Brees was to the Saints. The Colts went 2-14 without Manning. Now that Denver has claimed him, it will be interesting to see how the No. 1 rushing offense will adapt with Manning. He might be at the tail end of his career, but his name is about to go right alongside Unitas, Montana, and Elway when it comes to greatness, and I think even at his lowest point he will outperform Flacco.
Why Not:
This argument will sound much like the case against Brady. Manning gets the credit for being able to bounce back after a season-ending injury like he had. I don’t know what exactly they did over in Europe (perhaps moose antler spray), but Peyton was certainly back up to speed. In fact, he threw for more yards, more touchdowns and fewer interceptions than he did when he took the Colts to the Super Bowl in 2009. So why is Flacco better? For some reason I keep likening these comparisons to a schoolyard fight. You’ve got the big kid versus the average kid, and all day before recess everybody makes their predictions based on what they can see. Well in this case, Manning’s the big kid and Flacco’s the average kid. Manning has the better statistics and he’s beaten up all the other kids that have come through the fourth grade as he’s been held back (metaphorically speaking). But head-to-head, in the midst of the fight, Flacco outperforms. He makes the big plays, he throws for more yardage, more touchdowns and a higher completion percentage in their Divisional Playoff matchup. In that sense, I consider him the better quarterback. But I guess it depends on what you value. By the most current sense of the word, Flacco is better than Peyton Manning.

5. Eli Manning
I decided to put Eli up here because I feel this leads up well to the point I’m trying to make: You have to earn your spot to be listed up here. Eli went out on a limb and said he was "elite," then played elite, beating most of the quarterbacks on this list along the way. So Flacco… Your turn.
Why Not:
Flacco certainly followed up with his turn, beginning his case ironically against the Giants in Week 16 when he threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns in a 33-14 win that gave the initial nudge that was the falling out of New York’s season. From then on he would not throw another interception, outperforming Eli and the rest of those on this list in backing up his claim.

Flacco and the Ravens organization will now enter the offseason, writing up what many expect to be a very sizable contract. But who knows if Flacco will accept the
offer? He might think he’s worth more. He is mad after all.

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) calls a play at the line of scrimmage against the San Francisco 49ers during the first quarter of an NFL football game in San Francisco, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

This week is stacked with great matchups, including several division rivalry games. The environment of these games is sure to be electric and players will be looking to elevate their performances against hated foes. With plenty at stake Sunday, be aware of who will be a smart fantasy start:

Players to start:

1) Eli Manning, QB
New York Giants

Outside of an opening-day dud against the Cowboys and last week’s blowout of the 49ers, Manning has been a reliable fantasy player.  Expect him to air it out this week against a Redskins defense that makes every quarterback it faces look like a fantasy all-star. Considering he has been sacked the least number of times in the NFL, Manning should have plenty of time and plenty of opportunities Sunday against Washington.

2) Mark Sanchez, QB
New York Jets

Although the whispers for Tim Tebow to start continue to haunt Sanchez, he played an efficient game against the Colts last Sunday, albeit throwing for a laughable 82 yards. Still, he tossed two touchdowns and surrendered zero turnovers, which should give him some confidence heading into Sunday’s game against the Patriots. Since he is facing a defense that has allowed at least three touchdown passes in each of its last four games, Sanchez is a good sleeper pick this week.

3) Chris Johnson, RB
Tennessee Titans

Though Johnson’s disappointing season has devastated many fantasy owners, he has looked improved in two of the past three weeks and is seeing a larger workload with backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck under center. Johnson should be in store for a strong game against the Buffalo Bills, who have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs.

Players to sit:

1) Russell Wilson, QB
Seattle Seahawks

Wilson had a huge game Sunday against the Patriots, throwing for 293 passing yards and three touchdowns in what was his best performance of the season. That being said, he was playing in the friendly confines of Qwest Field against an awful secondary. Don’t expect Wilson to duplicate this performance Thursday in San Francisco against a strong 49ers defense looking to rebound from a loss to the Giants.

2) Matthew Stafford, QB
Detroit Lions

Stafford is faced with a tough task this week, facing a Chicago defense that has allowed the least amount of fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. Considering the Bears are coming off their bye week and the game will be played in Chicago, their defense is sure to be well rested and prepared for the game. Pairing these conditions with the fact that Stafford’s only thrown four touchdowns in five games this year, it would be wise to avoid him this week.

3) Jermichael Finley, TE
Green Bay Packers

Finley was a non-factor in the Packers’ 42-24 blowout of the Texans on Sunday night due to a shoulder injury, playing only 24 snaps the entire game. Although he should be expected to play more this week versus the Rams, Finley’s lack of production cannot be blamed solely on his health; the former Longhorn hasn’t had more than four catches in a game or scored since a week-one loss to San Francisco.

Printed on Thursday, October 18, 2012 as: Manning due for a giant day against Redskins

NFL Regular Season Schedule Released

The 2012 NFL regular season schedule has been released to the public and there are a lot of interesting games to look forward to. The season will start on NBC with a Wednesday night on September 5th, due to the Democratic Party Convention the following night, with Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning and the New York Giants starting the defense of their Super Bowl championship at home against the division rival Dallas Cowboys. The last time these two teams squared off, the Giants emerged as the better team in what was a “win and in” game for entry to the playoffs. With the key additions and departures of each squad, it will be fun to see which team is most ready for the season.

The following Sunday night, again on NBC, the Peyton Manning era will officially begin in Denver as the Broncos take on the Pittsburgh Steelers. The last time these two played one another, it ended in spectacular fashion, with then starting QB Tim Tebow throwing an 80 yard strike to WR Demaryius Thomas for a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage in OT. Peyton Manning has been looking really good in workouts according to his new teammates, even leading in the weight room to go to stations. If this is the same Peyton Manning that will take the field that night, I believe he’ll be just fine for that matchup.

Other marquee matchups include the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers at Lambeau, which combined for a record of 28-4 during the 2011 regular season, New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos (Brady vs. Manning), and one surprise that could be a must watch in the Carolina Panthers and the Washington Redskins, which will probably features the talents of QBs Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III.

Below is a link for the 2012 schedule to see who your favorite teams will pay, courtesy of NFL.com: http://www.nfl.com/schedules/2012/REG1

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning reacts in the closing minutes of Super Bowl XLVI against the New England Patriots.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — Take that, Brady. You too, Peyton.

Eli Manning is the big man in the NFL after one-upping Tom Brady and leading the New York Giants to a 21-17 victory over the New England Patriots in Sunday's Super Bowl — in older brother Peyton's house, at that.

Just as Manning did four years ago when the Giants ruined New England's perfect season, he guided them 88 yards to the decisive touchdown, which the Patriots didn't contest as Ahmad Bradshaw ran 6 yards with 57 seconds left.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick reasoned the Giants would run the clock down and kick a short field goal, so he gambled by allowing the six points.

The gamble failed.

And now Manning not only has stamped himself as the elite quarterback he claimed to be when the season began — in the same class as Brady — he’s beaten the Patriots in two thrilling Super Bowls. The Giants (13-7), who stood 7-7 in mid-December, now own the football world, and Manning owns two Super Bowl MVP awards — the same number as Brady.

“It's been a wild game, a wild season,” Manning said. “This isn't about one person. It's about one team, a team coming together.”

Manning led six comeback victories during the season and set an NFL record with 15 fourth-quarter touchdown passes. He showed that brilliance in the clutch on the winning drive. He completed five passes, including a sensational 38-yard sideline catch by Mario Manningham to open the drive.

On second down at the Patriots 6 and with only one timeout remaining, Belichick had his defense stand up as Bradshaw took the handoff. Bradshaw thought about stopping short of the end zone, then tumbled in untouched.

“I was yelling to him, ‘Don't score, don't score,’” Manning said. “He tried to stop, but he fell into the end zone.”

Brady couldn't answer in the final 57 seconds, although his desperation pass into the end zone on the final play fell just beyond the grasp of All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski. New England (15-4), winner of 10 straight since a loss to the Giants in November, was done.

Brady headed off with his head bowed, holding his helmet, while around him was the wild celebration by the Giants, NFL champions for the eighth — and perhaps most unlikely — time.

“Great toughness, great faith, and great plays by a number of guys today,” Manning said, deflecting some of the attention. Still, he one-upped Brady. And Peyton.

“It just feels good to win a Super Bowl, it doesn't matter where you are,” Manning said.