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Manning Bowl II: This Time It's A Fair Fight

<strong>Eli Manning</strong> is much better prepared to go up against his brother Peyton now than he was back in 2006.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Eli Manning is much better prepared to go up against his brother Peyton now than he was back in 2006. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
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Manning Bowl II is upon on Sunday night when our New York Giants travel to Indianapolis to face the Colts.

Little brother Eli vs. big brother Peyton. The youngest Manning -- who still does not measure up to the name in the eyes of some, including some Giants fans, vs. the all-time great and certain Hall of Famer.

On another scale, the Giants -- who did not make the playoffs in 2009 -- vs. a Colts team that went to the Super Bowl a season ago. The Giants are, probably correctly, 51/2-point underdogs as I type this.

Yet, I feel optimistic about the Giants' chances to go into Lucas Oil Stadium and come out with a victory.

A lot of that comes back to what I wrote in the Maple Street Press 2010 Giants Annual in previewing this game. I won't quote the entire thing since I know many of you have already seen it (and if you haven't purchased one, why not?), but I have to refer to a chunk of it.

The first time the brothers faced each other was in another Sunday night game, Sept. 10, 2006. Indianapolis won, 26-21, in a game that -- in retrospect as a Giants fan -- was probably nowhere near a fair fight. Peyton was coming off his third consecutive All-Pro season and already had two MVP awards in his pocket.

Eli, on the other hand, was entering just his second full season as the Giants starter. Not shockingly, a pair of critical Eli mistakes -- a fumble and an interception -- led to Indianapolis scores that doomed the Giants.

Peyton is still Peyton, having earned all-Pro and league MVP honors each of the past two years, to go with four straight 4,000-yard passing seasons.

Eli, though, is all grown up. He has a Super Bowl title, including the MVP Award, of his own. He is coming off his best individual season, though his single 4,000-yard passing season pales placed next to his brother's 10.

The Giants have to feel Eli is on much sturdier ground now in a situation where he has to trade punches with his big brother, one of the best quarterbacks to ever play.

Eli himself seems to agree with that assessment.

"It's a little different than last time. It was my first full season being a starter, and the first game of that season. There were a lot of things going on," Eli said Monday. "With this one, I've been playing a little bit longer. Still, it's going to be fun. It's going to be a great environment, it's my first time to play in the Indianapolis stadium. I've been there for a few games but never played in the stadium and I'm looking forward to that."

Two other factors that have nothing to do with the Manning brothers give me optimism this week, and they are both things that the folks over at SB Nation's Colts blog, Stampede Blue, have been discussing this week.

One is poor Colts offensive line play in Week 1 against Houston, which you would hope the Giants seemingly revitalized defensive line can take advantage of.

The other is the Colts run defense, which was so porous against the Texans that Arian Foster ran for 231 yards on 33 carries. Foster ran for just 257 yards total as a rookie in 2009. With the Giants trying valiantly to get their running attack back to where it was a couple of seasons ago, this might provide an opportunity for big plays on the ground.

So, I'm optimistc about the chances for a 2-0 start, and for the Manning Bowl series to end up knotted at 1-1 after Sunday night. I'm sure, though, that Peyton has other ideas.