With Super Bowl Sunday looming, football pundits worldwide are typing their fingers to the bone predicting who will step up, who will choke, and which commercials will be the most buzz-worthy. Sure, football is a group sport and there's no "I" — or "Eli" — in "team," but we can't help boiling down the big game to its most fascinating matchup: the budding legend versus the legacy kid. How do Tom Brady and Eli Manning stack up, and more important, which one looks better in spandex? Let us be your guides.
TABLOID APPEAL: Tom Brady has been all over the rags this year, thanks to his baby-mama drama with Bridget Moynahan and his ensuing photo-friendly relationship with Gisele. Whereas we only know from Wikipedia that Eli Manning is engaged; "Giants QB Really Digs College Sweetheart" probably won't move any magazines unless he knocks her up with some baby joy. At Tom Brady's house.
Advantage: Tom. Unless you prefer keeping your private life private, but where's the fun there?
COMMERCIAL APPEAL: Eli is never in an ad without his family, including a recent Oreo ad with his ubiquitous brother, Colts QB Peyton Manning — who, of course, gets the laugh line. On the other hand, Tom has endorsed everything from the Gap to Stetson cologne (shirtless!) and presumably gets fierceness tips from his supermodel girlfriend.
Advantage: Tom, although the Oreo is a fine, fine cookie.
PHYSICAL APPEAL: Less innately suave, Eli comes off like the guy at a bar who'd attempt a clumsy pickup line, blush furiously, then stare at the floor, which could be endearing. Except, you know, he wouldn't be picking up women at a bar, period. Tom, however, is — technically speaking — smoking hot. (Though, according to a poll published in the Boston Globe, of all places, women think Manning will look better on HD.) On the field Brady gets an assist from the Pats' uniforms, whose shiny football pants in either silver or blue perfectly hug the, shall we say, athletic posterior. The Giants need to ditch the unflattering dishwater-dull gray ones, pronto.
Advantage: Tom, thanks in part to his pants. On many levels, perhaps.
MAD SKILLZ: Aerially, Brady's been unparalleled, chucking 50 touchdowns against only eight picks. His o-line is so stout that he almost never scrambles or throws from outside the comfort of the pocket, rarely needs his TEs to block, and can spread the field five wide without leaving himself vulnerable. Eli, conversely, had 23 TDs and a whopping 20 interceptions, plus an injury to his star tight end. But, forced to dig deep without Jeremy Shockey, Manning thrived; since December's 4-TD near-dethroning of New England, Manning marched his Giants to three turnover-free playoff road wins.
Advantage: Even. Look, Brady is great. To ruffle his feathers you have to blitz like mad, but that can leave those speedy wideouts open — and hell, we half-expect Bill Belichick to beat Steve Young catching his own tipped pass by scripting Tom Brady to Tom Brady. But the Pats defense is showing its age and Eli's seen the wear-and-tear firsthand. Plus, never underestimate the underdog.
MENTAL FORTITUDE: It sucks to be the Lesser Manning, especially when former teammate Tiki Barber publicly maligns your leadership. But let's not diminish Brady's pain. Tom has bravely endured a battery of fierce compliments, proclamations anointing him an all-time great, and vicious accusations that he's peerlessly brilliant and driven. It's all so hard.
Advantage: Eli. Heavy expectations all around, but Eli has less to lose and everything to win.
PEDIGREE: Brady plays like a top draft pick, but in fact, the guy went in the sixth round and never locked down the starting job in college. Whereas Eli famously went first overall to San Diego (and then pitched a hissy — probably at the behest of his father — to get himself traded, but that's between them). And then there's his family. And then there's Maude. Well, in our dreams, anyway.
Advantage: Eli. He's not the best-known Manning, but neither is Tom the best-known Brady. That honor goes to Roman and Bo.
FINAL VERDICT: Hey, we're not nuts, we know the name of this publication. Game and set to Eli; let's see if he can take the match. —The Fug Girls
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Related: Underdog: The Rise of Eli Manning