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Brady vs. Manning: Who will master the moment?

This one is huge, in both the real and fantasy worlds.

Not only does it rank as Super Bowl XLI 1/2 , it's bound to decide a lot of fantasy matchups on Sunday.

Between them, the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts are 15-0 and average 73.4 points and 838.5 yards per game in total offense.

New England quarterback Tom Brady's 30 touchdown passes are on pace to shatter the NFL record of 49, set in 2004 by Indy's Peyton Manning.

The Patriots and Colts rank first and third in total offense (439.5 yards to 399), first and third in scoring (41.4 to 32.0) and first and sixth in passing offense (303.8 to 258.7).

So it's the NBA equivalent of Kobe Bryant versus LeBron James.

This will be the 10th Brady versus Manning matchup, including playoffs, and the average scoring output has been 29.5 for the Patriots -- who won the first six -- and 23.3 for the Colts, who have captured the last three.

Last season, Brady was at his worst against Indianapolis with 433 yards, one TD and five interceptions in the two games. He's thrown for 1,048 yards with 14 TDs and no picks in his last three games alone and has fired 19 scores since his last INT, in Week Four against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Manning, with 13 TDs and three INTs, isn't putting up the monster numbers he's accumulated in the past. But in his last three games against the Pats, he's 75 of 120 for 996 yards with six TDs and three INTs.

Brady is 184 of 282 (65.2 percent) for 2,020 yards with 14 TDs and nine INTs all-time against the Colts. Manning is 212 of 354 (59.9 percent) for 2,536 yards with 15 TDs and 13 picks in head-to-head matchups against Brady; and 343 of 570 (60.2 percent) for 4,013 yards with 27 TDs and 23 INTs in 15 career games against New England, including postseason. Manning is just 5-10 all-time against the Pats.

Randy Moss, Donte' Stallworth and Wes Welker, Brady's three favorite targets, have each faced the Colts just once previously and have combined on seven catches for 91 yards and one TD -- Moss' 42-yarder with the Minnesota Vikings in 2000.

Colts receiver Marvin Harrison has 102 catches for 1,458 yards and 14 TDs -- most against any opponent -- in 16 career games against the Pats.


Sorting the Bills

Since losing the 1988 AFC Championship Game, 21-10, in Cincinnati, the Bills have ripped off eight consecutive victories over the Bengals, five of them coming in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

The Bills have averaged 30.3 points in those eight wins, or 7.9 more than normal in those years. Two of Bills receiver Lee Evans' eight career 100-yard games have come against Cincinnati: five catches, including a season-long 65-yarder, for 107 yards and a score on Dec. 24, 2005; and five catches, including a 60-yarder, for 107 yards and a TD on Dec. 19, 2004.

Cincinnati ranks 31st in scoring defense (30.1 points per game) and total defense (385.4 yards), and 28th in passing (246.4) and rushing (139.0) defense. Five opposing rushers and receivers have gone over 100 yards in Cincinnati's past six games.


Since you asked

>Q: Because of byes, my choices at quarterback this week are (San Francisco's) Alex Smith or (Kansas City's) Damon Huard. Who is the better play?

A: Huard is home against the Green Bay Packers, who are 22nd in passing defense, while Smith is on the road against the Atlanta Falcons, who rank 20th. Smith, who returned last Sunday from a separated shoulder, was shaky, made several bad throws against the New Orleans Saints and went 22 of 43 for 190 yards. Huard is healthy and so are his numbers in Arrowhead Stadium. He's got three TDs and one INT with a 94.5 passer rating at home, and three TDs, six picks and a 68.3 rating on the road. I'd use Huard.


Week Eight eye-popper

Patriots outside linebacker Mike Vrabel was a multi-tasker in a 52-7 romp over the Washington Redskins.

He caught a 2-yard TD pass from Brady in the second quarter, had 11 solo tackles, two assists, three sacks for 20 yards and forced three fumbles by Redskins QB Jason Campbell that were recovered by Patriots teammates Ty Warren (two) and Rosevelt Colvin. Vrabel also returned a kickoff 3 yards.

Vrabel's career receiving stats: eight catches -- all TDs -- for 11 yards.


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