For the next 10 days, arguments will rage about whether Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time.
But there's one quarterback debate that should not be much of an argument: Eli Manning is making his claim to be considered the greatest quarterback ever to play in New York.
He might just be a Super Bowl XLVI win away from making it happen.
Manning could lose the game and still one day be considered the finest quarterback ever to play in New York/New Jersey. But the quickest, shortest route to being declared New York/New Jersey's top all-time NFL quarterback is to win a week from Sunday on his brother Peyton's home field.
This postseason has distinguished him, elevated his stature. Manning now has won more postseason road games than any other quarterback in NFL history. He has five straight postseason road wins, in challenging locales such as Dallas, Green Bay and San Francisco.
Manning is the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to have three games in one postseason with 275-plus passing yards and more than two touchdowns. He outlasted Aaron Rodgers. Now he tries to outshine all the New York quarterbacks.
Already Manning's stats surpass those of former Jets quarterback Joe Namath. In 143 games, including the postseason, Namath threw for 28,299 yards and 176 touchdowns, 224 interceptions and completed 49.9 percent of his passes while compiling a 64-64-4 record. That record included one memorable Super Bowl win over the Colts and a 2-1 postseason mark.
In 131 games, Manning has thrown for 29,799 yards and 201 touchdowns, 137 interceptions and completed 58.5 percent of his passes while compiling a 76-53 record. That record includes one memorable Super Bowl win over the Patriots.
Manning is playing in a different age, in a game tailored to offensive football and passing marks. But still, the differences in the numbers between him and Namath, who is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, are stark.
Manning's numbers also compare favorably to those of former Giants quarterback Phil Simms, who in 174 games for threw 35,141 yards and 209 touchdowns, 163 interceptions and completed 55.5 percent of his passes while compiling a 101-68 record, including 6-4 in the postseason.
Former Giants quarterbacks Benny Friedman and Fran Tarkenton are the only other New York quarterbacks in the Hall, but Friedman spent only four years with the Giants and Tarkenton five. They spent most of their careers elsewhere.
Manning started his career with the Giants and could well end it with them. He certainly will spend the bulk of his career with the same franchise. By the time his final pass is thrown, it looks as if Manning will go down as the most distinguished quarterback to play football in New York/New Jersey.
On to this week's 10 Spot:
1. Oh, brother: Had Baltimore and San Francisco advanced to Indianapolis and Super Bowl XLVI, the focus would have been on the Harbaugh brothers. Now it turns to the Mannings and Eli on Peyton's home field.
Should the Giants beat the Patriots, Eli Manning will have his second Super Bowl victory, which means he would merit consideration as a candidate for the Hall of Fame one day.
The Super Bowl is a battle for rings and legacies, but it's also the forum for the Mannings to make a case to be the first brother combination inducted in Canton.
The Hall of Fame has fathers and sons, the Rooneys and Maras. But it has no brothers, at least not yet. When Shannon Sharpe delivered his enshrinement speech, he mentioned that his brother Sterling Sharpe should receive serious consideration. And he should. But there is now a race to see which will be the first brother combination to make it to the Hall.
The Mannings have their chance.
2. Coughlin emotional: Giants coach Tom Coughlin usually is emotional the night before a game, but he might have been even more so last Saturday, on the eve of the NFC Championship Game.
As Coughlin stood before his team in a San Francisco hotel, talking about the toughness of former Giants guard Rich Seubert, he had to catch himself before he lost it. But the power of his message reverberated in the room -- and in the game.
Coughlin told the Giants how Bavaro broke his jaw during a game, returned to finish the game and then got it wired before playing the next week.
He reminded the Giants -- 15 of whom were on the team for Super Bowl XLII -- how Strahan introduced the theme of "believe" when New York needed one score to become world champions.
And he shared how Seubert, as popular in the locker room as any Giant, snapped his leg nearly in half yet returned to finish his career.
Then Coughlin told his players how those three Giants greats also had one thing in common: They would give anything to trade places with the players in that room, to play another championship game. But their time was then, and this team's was now.
Coughlin capped his emotional speech by telling his players that this would be the kind of game they would tell their grandchildren about 50 years from now.
And it was.
New York won Sunday, and Coughlin planted the seeds Saturday night. Now New England is waiting.
Coughlin must figure out a way to top that speech, to arouse that kind of emotion from his team as it prepares to play Super Bowl XLVI.
Asked what Coughlin could do for an encore, one Giants official emailed, simply, "All he does is deliver encores."
3. Losing the TO battle: One of the most impressive aspects of the Patriots' push to Super Bowl XLVI is that they did not win the turnover battle in either of their playoff games. In games against Baltimore and Denver, the Patriots had a minus-3 turnover differential. Only the 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers had a worse playoff turnover differential entering the Super Bowl.
The three turnovers the Patriots lost against the Ravens would have been a death blow to almost any other team. Entering Sunday's conference championship games, teams with three or more turnovers had lost their past 22 playoff games. Yet the Patriots were strong enough in the other parts of the game, such as the pass rush and special teams, that they managed to beat the Ravens. It's also interesting to note that, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, of the four previous teams with the worst playoff turnover differentials entering the Super Bowl -- the 1975 Steelers (minus-4), the 1994 Chargers (minus-3), the 1967 Packers (minus-3) and the 1973 Dolphins (minus-2) -- three won the Super Bowl.
Growing up in Paterson, N.J., Cruz wanted to enroll at Rutgers. But the school used its last football scholarship on McCourty, who went on to become a 2010 first-round pick of the Patriots.
Instead, Cruz played at Massachusetts, where he struggled with grades before emerging as a star. But this raises another issue: How did the Patriots let a player who has developed into one of the NFL's top wide receivers get out of their back yard? It's almost as confounding as the Jets once allowing Hofstra wide receiver Marques Colston, who trained right next door, to go to New Orleans. But now Cruz and McCourty could be going up against each other in Super Bowl XLVI in the revenge game within the revenge game.
5. Odd numbers: Each of the teams the Giants have beaten this postseason -- the Falcons, Packers and 49ers -- had a better record than New York during the regular season. According to Elias, the only other team to beat three teams in the postseason that had better records in the regular season was the Arizona Cardinals, who reached the Super Bowl after the 2008 season with the same 9-7 record the Giants registered this season. The 2011 Giants, 2008 Cardinals and 1979 Rams are the only teams to reach the Super Bowl with 9-7 records. And that might be enough to concern the Giants: The Rams and Cardinals lost.
6. What wins championships? The team that wins Super Bowl XLVI will field the lowest-rated defense ever to become a world champion. The Patriots' defense ranked 31st in the NFL this season; the Giants' D 27th. One will have the distinction of becoming the Super Bowl-winning defense that has allowed the most yards.
Until now, the lowest rated-defense to win a Super Bowl was that of the 2009 Saints, which ranked 25th. For the second time in three years, a team with a low-rated defense will overcome it for a championship. It is yet another sign that although strong defenses used to be the key to championships, they might not be quite as important at a time when NFL rules favor offenses.
7. Ravens-Patriots connection: Baltimore nearly prevented New England from reaching Indianapolis and Super Bowl XLVI. But the Ravens have Patriots coach Bill Belichick to thank for the greatest player in their franchise history, linebacker Ray Lewis. Belichick was the Browns' head coach in 1995, when Cleveland traded its No. 1 pick to San Francisco in exchange for several picks so the 49ers could use the 10th overall pick on UCLA wide receiver J.J. Stokes. But Belichick never got to use the second No. 1 pick he got back from San Francisco, as Cleveland fired him and the franchise moved to Baltimore within a year.
The Ravens took that pick from San Francisco, their second first-round pick in the 1996 draft, and used it on Lewis. Belichick nearly had a chance to get Lewis when he left Cleveland and took over as the Patriots' defensive coordinator under Bill Parcells in 1996. Belichick flew to Miami that spring and spent a day watching game tape with Lewis. The Patriots thought Lewis might slide to their spot in the second round, but Baltimore took Lewis at No. 26. Still needing a linebacker, the Patriots used their fourth-round draft pick on Tedy Bruschi. So it was Belichick's deal with San Francisco that brought Lewis to Baltimore and Bruschi to New England.
8. On the field: For the first time, wide receiver Chad Ochocinco will spend media day answering questions as a player, not asking them. Ochocinco has been a regular media-day attendee in recent seasons, trying to get the lowdown from some of his football brethren. He wrote a column for ESPN.com on Feb. 2, 2010, bemoaning some of the responses he received. "One thing I didn't like was all the politically correct answers I heard," Ochocinco wrote. "It was kind of boring. We need something to spice things up. I know preparing for the game is important, but it's pretty boring for us media. It was too subdued."
So this is Ochocinco's chance to give the type of answers he once had hoped to get. But if Ochocinco speaks his mind, he might find himself inactive for his first Super Bowl the way he was for the AFC Championship Game. The Patriots acquired Ochocinco and held onto him with the hope that one day he would make a difference. This could be the last chance he has to do that for New England.
9. Big news in Indy: Indianapolis' biggest story is the Super Bowl. But there's another compelling story involving Indianapolis' new general manager, Ryan Grigson, and his longstanding close relationship with Texans general manager Rick Smith. The two were teammates at Purdue in 1991, when Smith was a senior strong safety and Grigson a freshman tight end. The two developed a strong relationship during their time together at Purdue.
One day, when Smith sensed that Grigson was struggling, he gave him a Bible that his mother once had given to him. And that was it; Smith forgot about the gesture. But as the two worked their way up the ranks in the NFL, Grigson told Smith he had a gift that he wanted to give him at the scouting combine in Indianapolis. They tried to get together but could not find the time. Later, Grigson shipped a box to Smith. Inside was the Bible that Smith once had given to Grigson. Now Grigson was giving it back to Smith to give to his son. Many years after two forged a bond at Purdue, and one helped the other through some tough times, they find themselves as general managers in the same division.
10. More Manning: As the football world descends upon Indianapolis, there will be more speculation about the future of Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. Miami, Washington and the Jets have been mentioned as teams that could be interested in Manning if the Colts release him rather than pay him a $28 million option bonus due March 8. But if Manning is healthy enough to play, and he is on the open market, league sources say the Cardinals will pursue him as well. Arizona has been doing its due diligence on the Colts quarterback.
"It's the real deal," one source said about Arizona's interest in Manning. There are those in the Cardinals' organization who believe Manning could do for Arizona what veteran quarterback Kurt Warner once did. Playing in the heat or indoors, two options that would be afforded to Manning if he played in Arizona, could make the destination attractive to him. Arizona has had a history of pursuing aging stars, including Emmitt Smith, Edgerrin James and Warner.
The Schef's specialties
There are no Schef's Specialties in this 10 Spot because there are no games this weekend. But we'll re-run last Friday's Schef's Specialties, just as they ran in this space one week ago, word for word. How did we do?
" Game of the week: Giants vs. 49ers: The two teams that took out Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees now settle who's best in the NFC.
" Player of the week: Giants quarterback Eli Manning: He's never played with more confidence than now.
" Picks of the week: New England over Baltimore: The Ravens will keep it close, but the Patriots will make it count. New York over San Francisco: This season is looking a lot like the 2007 season.