Sunday afternoon (Jan. 12), quarterback Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos have home field advantage in Denver when they face off against QB Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers in an NFL divisional playoff game.
After Saturday's wins by the Seattle Seahawks (over the New Orleans Saints, 23-15) and the New England Patriots (over the Indianapolis Colts, 43-22), the Super Bowl picture is coming into focus. If Manning doesn't find himself in the frame at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey (home to the New York Giants, whose QB is Manning's brother, Eli) on Feb. 2 -- especially after last year's double-overtime loss in the divisional round to the Baltimore Ravens, which went on to take the Vince Lombardi Trophy -- NFL Network anchor Rich Eisen thinks it's going to be a nearly impossible pill for the quarterback to swallow.
"It's all about Peyton Manning right now," Eisen tells Zap2it at the NFL Network studios in Culver City, Calif. "It's the end-all-be-all; it's Peyton Manning and how he's going to fare as the one-seed for a team that seems to be poised to win.
"This is the perfect year for him to win, because the Super Bowl's in a cold site; it's in his brother's building; so, for him to match the the number of Super Bowls that his younger brother has already won. It's in a cold-weather environment where supposedly he's not able to win, so he can slay all the remaining dragons that there are. Because the national media is acting so far like his first Super Bowl didn't happen, because he's set up to win.
"Great quarterbacks are measured by wins and championships, and the ones who are the all-time greats -- Elway, Montana, Bradshaw, Bart Starr, Tom Brady -- all have multiple Super Bowl wins. Manning's been one-and-doned in the playoffs eight times, so for him to win this year would be incredible."
On the other side is Rivers of the Chargers, a devout Catholic and family man whose affable, charming demeanor disappears during game time.
"On the field," Eisen says, "he's always in people's faces. He gets many people to think he's sort of a punk in that regard. Then you find out he's really a father of seven, who has just such a love of the game, an intense love of the game."
The last time Manning and Rivers faced each other, Rivers came out on top. But when he appeared for a post-game interview on NFL Network's on-site set, the Broncos fans made their displeasure known. Click here to watch Rivers persevere in the interview over the boos from the stands.
"He came on our set after the game that he won against Denver in week 15," says Eisen, "and he got so many new fans based on them just hearing how passionate he is about the game and how much he loves his teammates.
"They've seen him scream across the field at [Chicago Bears QB] Jay Cutler and scream at other opponents. They see him get in the face of his opponents, and they think he's a punk; but he's far from that. He loves to compete, and sometimes it boils over a little bit.
"It's my job to help folks understand who the players are, and I take that very seriously."
Photo/Video credit: NFL Network