Oh, brother! There's nothing like a famous sibling rivalry to give an early game between the Indianapolis Colts and the New York Giants the sizzle of the postseason. Four years after big brother Peyton and the Colts outgunned Eli and the Giants it's Manning Bowl II on Sunday Night Football (Sept. 19, 8:15pm/7:15c, NBC).
"I've never been involved in a regular-season game with that much hype," says then-Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy, now an NBC analyst, of the Colts' 26-21 victory. The Colts went on to win the Super Bowl, followed — in typical little brother fashion — by the Giants a year later.
Dungy says that means Eli, 29, is "probably feeling on equal footing" to Peyton, 34. "This is two elite quarterbacks now," he says, "not a great quarterback and his little brother. It's two veteran Super Bowl quarterbacks at the top of their game who happen to be brothers."
While Indy's home turf will give the Colts an edge, Dungy says the winner will be "the team that can handle the hype and the distractions the best."
Unlike the first Manning Bowl, which opened the 2006 season, the teams already have a game under their belts this time. The Colts not only lost their opener to the Houston Texans, 34-24, but Peyton was knocked down an eye-popping 10 times. The Giants had a better start, opening their new stadium with a 31-18 victory over the Carolina Panthers.
"It might be a little bit of a blessing the Colts lost last week," Dungy says. "Now the focus is, 'We've got to get to 1-1 and win our home opener.' It may take some of the other things out of it. But you can bet that that part of it is always there. It is going to be a little bit of Manning vs. Manning."
In 2006, Dungy recalls, the Colts wanted to win because it was a big game — and also for their quarterback. "They knew this was special." He thought Peyton did a good job of trying to attack the Giants "and not look at it as a personal battle, but that part is always there."
And comparisons inevitably will be made.
Like Peyton did with the Colts, Eli has grown into a quarterback who is carrying his team. "He's the face of the Giants now. He's playing at a level where you talk about him as a Pro Bowl quarterback," Dungy says. "He's not where Peyton is yet, but he's close." Enjoy the family reunion.