To hear some people tell it, this is a fairly easy comparison. In a full season without Peyton Manning, the Colts are a threat to go 0-16. In close to a full season without Tom Brady, the Patriots went 11-5 and narrowly missed the playoffs in 2008.
Yes, simple. Manning is more valuable than Brady.
Not so fast.
The Patriots were able to survive in 2008 without their three-time Super Bowl winner taking the snaps, with Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Sammy Morris and Kevin Faulk helping Matt Cassel guide an effective-enough offense. Their point differential of 101 ranked sixth in the league.
That Patriots team was not this Colts team, however. If the Colts had similar personnel, they would surely be better than winless. They might even be in the playoff hunt in the alarmingly average AFC South.
Imagine this year's Patriots team without Brady, though. Even worse, imagine the 2006 Patriots team without Brady. Are either of those teams thinking about the playoffs, much less about the Super Bowl, if No. 12 isn't leading the way? Would Brian Hoyer have New England two games ahead of the Jets in the AFC East and potentially building toward a fifth Super Bowl appearance?
No offense to Hoyer, but we don't think so.