Bragging rights in the Manning household will be at the forefront of Sunday's showdown between the Denver Broncos and New York Giants.
Big brother Peyton Manning leads his highly-touted Broncos squad into MetLife Stadium to face Eli and the turnover-happy Giants and is looking to build on an incredible Week 1 performance in which he shredded the defending champion Baltimore Ravens for 462 yards and an NFL record-tying seven touchdown passes.
Peyton Manning displayed his trademark excellence, completing 27 of his 42 pass attempts without an interception in last Thursday's 49-27 victory. He became just the second player in league history to throw for seven TDs without an interception.
"You never know what is going to happen in a game," Manning said afterward. "I felt like we had to keep scoring."
No lead is safe in the NFL and the Broncos made sure not to give the Ravens any life by scoring 14 points in the fourth quarter. Manning, the 2012 NFL Comeback Player of the Year, hooked up with Demaryius Thomas twice and needs 1,413 passing yards to surpass Dan Marino for second place all-time. Manning is 51 passing yards shy of joining Brett Favre and Marino as the only players in NFL history to total 60,000 yards.
The Broncos netted 510 yards and pretty much exiled their running game to the tune of 65 yards with a committee approach.
Denver's pass attack, however, was the talk of the town all weekend and seven different receivers were involved versus the Ravens. First-year Bronco and veteran slot receiver Wes Welker had 11 catches for 67 yards and two scores and Thomas also hauled in 11 passes, racking up 161 yards and a pair of TDs, including a 78-yard score in the fourth quarter. Thomas needs 100 yards to become the first player in Broncos history with four consecutive 100-yard receiving games.
Tight end Julius Thomas caught five passes for 110 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It was the first 100-yard receiving game by a Broncos tight end since Tony Scheffler turned the trick on Oct. 19, 2009. But the Broncos know they still have work to do and can't get too confident after just one game. The running game needs improvement and will find it difficult to get established at New York.
Broncos head coach John Fox saw some things after watching tape.
"I saw that we made a lot of mistakes ... as a football team," said Fox, who spent five seasons as Giants defensive coordinator. "We spent a big part of the day after the game reviewing that and going over it. Like everybody in the league this week, it is the first game. There are a lot of question marks and there are a lot of corrections."
It won't be easy for the Broncos on Sunday against a Giants team that had six turnovers (3 fumbles, 3 INTs) in Sunday night's 36-31 road loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Eli Manning didn't display his two-time Super Bowl winning form with three interceptions and running back David Wilson had a night to forget with two fumbles and a seat on the bench.
The six turnovers led to 24 Dallas points and both Wilson and Manning didn't do head coach Tom Coughlin any favors.
"Six times we gave the ball away tonight. Six times - that's my fault," Coughlin said afterward. "I'm totally, totally disappointed and embarrassed by that kind of football. That's sloppy, sloppy football. We have control over ourselves. We have to recognize situations that are going to lead to those kinds of things and then you can't turn the ball over. You can't win turning the football over. That's the bottom line. There are a lot of other things that we can fix ... we're going to fix that, too."
Despite his three picks, Manning played well and completed 27 of his 42 pass attempts -- just like his older bother -- for 450 yards. Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Rueben Randle all finished with 100-plus yards receiving, while Cruz had three TD catches. Those numbers could increase even more against a Denver defense that allowed 362 yards and two TDs to Ravens QB Joe Flacco, who connected with nine different receivers, including three who finished with 10 or more catches.
The Broncos, though, will be ready and know how dangerous the Giants are.
"They have no weaknesses, man. They can run the ball, they have a real solid offensive line," Denver safety Rahim Moore said. "Their receivers are dynamic ... they can do all kinds of things, especially with Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Randle. We have to go out there and do what we can to try to tame those guys. They have so many targets."
Denver is trying to match a franchise record with seven straight road victories (1976-77) and needs a victory to become the fifth franchise to reach 400 wins since the NFL merger in 1970. That has a strong chance of happening because the Broncos have won their past 12 regular-season games dating back to last year.
Both teams have several targets and Sunday's game is setting up to be a shootout in East Rutherford, NJ. New York has lost three straight season openers and last started 0-2 in 2007, when they went on to defeat New England in the Super Bowl. The Broncos haven't opened a season 2-0 since winning six in a row to kick off the 2009 campaign. That year Denver handed New York a 26-6 loss on Thanksgiving.
The Giants and Broncos have split the all-time regular season series, 5-5. In addition to the regular season series, the teams met for Super Bowl XXI in Pasadena following the 1986 season, won by the Giants by a 39-20 count. The Giants are 24-19 in regular season games versus the AFC West.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The biggest concern for the Giants should be their running game and the mindset of Wilson. Wilson, who also struggled in pass protection, was punished for putting the ball on the turf twice Sunday and finished with 19 yards on seven carries. Coughlin didn't comment on Wilson's status as a starter versus the Broncos and noted that it's not a mental issue with the former Virginia Tech star.
"I don't think there's a mental aspect of it because being asked very much about this circumstance of the situation over the spring and the fall is as if no one was here last year and watched him last year," Coughlin said. "Early on he had some errors last year and then he had a tremendous year as a kick returner, taking some drill shots and was able to secure the ball under those circumstances. I think we did preach so much about them being ball strippers and somehow, someway that didn't sink in. He had the ball stripped twice and he'll learn from it. He's got great pride and we'll try to get this under control."
Coughlin said the coaching staff will have an impact on Wilson being a better ball carrier from here on out. Remember, Coughlin taught former Giants running back Tiki Barber how to hold onto the ball correctly.
"He has to be limit ball exposure before contact, not try to hold on afterward, as happened in his second fumble," Barber recently told USA Today. "You have to have an easy methodology to anticipate contact, cover your four points of contact, then go to the ground or keep running."
Da'Rel Scott and rookie Michael Cox are other options in the backfield and the former ran for 23 yards on five carries in the loss to Dallas.
"I thought Da'Rel did a good job last night in a role that he didn't expect to get that many snaps, but he came in and did a good job," Coughlin said Monday. "You're always searching to see if you can improve and where you can improve. That goes for a lot of spots."
In an effort to push Wilson, the Giants brought back former running back Brandon Jacobs on Tuesday. Jacobs spent the first seven years of his career with the Giants, accumulating 4,849 yards and 56 touchdowns on 1,078 carries. He signed with the San Francisco 49ers for the 2012 season, but appeared in just two games because of injury issues and had five carries for seven yards.
Denver shouldn't be too concerned who's running the football after holding the talented Ray Rice and the Ravens to 58 net yards rushing last week.
The Broncos and Giants bring potent pass attacks into this matchup, but Denver's demonstrative showing against Baltimore was eye-popping. Peyton Manning was a tactician on the field and could face a Giants defense without cornerback Prince Amukamara, who needs to pass a concussion protocol to suit up. Amukamara suffered the ailment Sunday night and Aaron Ross may start alongside Corey Webster versus the Broncos.
"I know he's feeling better. He felt pretty good last night, to be honest with you," Coughlin said Monday. "He didn't seem to have any repercussions, but he does need to go through the protocol."
Safety Ryan Mundy recorded the only interception of Tony Romo. It will be a long day for the Giants' secondary if there's no pressure up front. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul posted a sack against Dallas and both DE Justin Tuck and DT Linval Joseph combined for one. The Giants must find a way to slow down Denver's receivers and tight end to have a shot at keeping this game close.
Peyton Manning is 2-0 against his brother and would like to have as many Super Bowl rings (2) as the younger sibling one day. That may happen months down the road, but the Broncos have to take it one step at a time.
The offensive deluge Denver displayed in its season opener won't happen this week because the Giants will not be embarrassed in their own building. The blueprint for beating Peyton Manning is consistent pressure and the Giants have the ability to do that, especially with the home crowd in their corner. In the end, however, the elder Manning will one-up his brother in what should be an exciting matchup.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Broncos 27, Giants 20