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Eli Manning will have trouble measuring up to Peyton no matter what he does

Peyttortured Eli an ESPN ad questions about his future are hanging over Super Bowl.

Peyton tortured Eli in an ESPN ad, and questions about his future are hanging over the Super Bowl.

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Updated: March 3, 2012 11:41AM



INDIANAPOLIS — When Eli Manning was a kid, his older brother Peyton would pin him down, rap on his chest and demand that he name the schools of the Southeastern Conference. It’s amazing what bare knuckles can do for memorization skills.

Once that challenge was met, Peyton would give Eli another one: Name all the teams in the NFL. Reciting and bruising would ensue until he got them all.

Alas, Eli never could commit to memory the list of cigarette brands Peyton demanded.

‘‘When he really wanted to torture me and knew I had no shot of ever getting it, that’s when I just started screaming for Mom or Dad to come save me,’’ Eli said, laughing.

Eli Manning can’t escape his brother, even if he wanted to. Peyton not only owns this city, but he has its full attention as his health issues and future play out in a very public way.

This is Peyton’s Super Bowl, even if plays for the Colts, a team that finished 2-14 in 2011. Depending on which breathless report you choose to cozy up with, the neck injury that kept him out this season will A) heal in time for next season; B) push the Colts to release him, forcing him to sign with another team; or C) end his 13-year career.

It’s why Peyton is hovering over Indy and his brother like a giant parade balloon.

He always will be the quarterback to whom Eli is compared. Some people are saying that if Eli and the Giants beat the Patriots on Sunday for his second Super Bowl title, he will supersede his brother as the best quarterback in the family. It’s silly, windy, New York tabloid talk — unless you’re the kind of person who rates quarterbacks totally on Super Bowls and victories.

If you are, then you have to say Trent Dilfer (one Super Bowl ring) is better than Dan Marino (none).

‘‘I’ve never been real concerned with what people might say about me or Peyton, comparing us,’’ said Eli, who at 31 is almost five years younger than his brother. ‘‘I’m worried about getting prepared for this game.’’

Peyton is a four-time NFL most valuable player and an 11-time Pro Bowl selection. He’s third all-time in completions, passing yardage and passing touchdowns. Eli is, well, not.

‘‘When Tom Brady won his first Super Bowl against me in 2002, he threw for [145] yards,’’ said former Rams and Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, who has one Super Bowl ring. ‘‘Yes, he won the Super Bowl and made plays down the stretch; I’m not slighting Tom Brady. I’m just making the point that he gets credit for having another Super Bowl win as a quarterback, but he wasn’t Tom Brady yet.

“I just think we have to be careful about saying, ‘Well, OK, Eli’s won two, whereas Peyton’s been to two but only won one.’ Peyton is one of the best, if not the best, quarterbacks this league has ever seen. Just because you win one more Super Bowl than him does not mean you’re better than him.’’

Peyton’s career passer rating is 94.9; Eli’s is 82.1. Peyton’s career completion percentage is 64.9; Eli’s is 58.4. Peyton’s record as a starter is 141-67; Eli’s is 69-50.

Are we really having this discussion?

Warner was teammates with Eli on the Giants in 2004. He saw the good and the bad from the rookie that season and wondered which would emerge the winner.

‘‘[Would it be] the side with all the talent and ability?’’ he said. ‘‘Or is it the side that maybe has a little more of the inconsistencies? I think through the first portion of his career, we’ve seen both sides.

‘‘This is, in my opinion, the best year in which he’s been able to put aside the inconsistencies, and you’ve seen his talent shine through in so many different ways.’’

Eli threw for a career-high 4,933 yards and 29 touchdowns this season. He has been very good in pressure situations, including leading seven game-winning drives in 2011. That hasn’t always been true of Peyton. But to elevate Eli because of that? No.

Eli said Peyton’s situation has not and will not be a distraction this week. The two have spoken, but they didn’t talk about the future of a certain Colts quarterback, Eli said.

‘‘He’s done a great job just trying to keep me relaxed — talking a little football, talking about New England some,’’ he said. ‘‘He’s supporting me this week.’’

No knuckles. That’s a good thing.



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