Surely, a second Super Bowl would be quite the accomplishment, particularly if he could take down Tom Brady in each victory. The achievement would be made even sweeter if Manning could hoist his second Lombardi Trophy in his brother's own building.
But until Super Bowl XLVI, the Manning debate is nonexistent. Peyton Manning, who will likely go down as the greatest passer of all time, is still the superior player. The four-time MVP ranks third in league history in passing yards in history (54,828) and passing touchdowns (399), trailing Dan Marino and Brett Favre in each category. Pending the health of his neck, the elder Manning could make a run to topple each of those records.
However, it's tough to compare stats between the brothers, as Peyton had a six-season head start on Eli, who is in his eighth year in the NFL. Because of that, let's try to measure Eli's career path by comparing his first eight seasons to those of his brother:
Peyton Manning (1998-2005): 80-48 regular-season record, completed 2,769 of 4,333 passes (63.9 percent), 33,189 yards, 244 touchdowns, 130 interceptions, 3-6 playoff record, no Super Bowls.
Eli Manning (2004-11): 69-50 regular-season record, completed 2,291 of 3,921 passes (58.4 percent), 27,579 yards, 185 touchdowns, 129 interceptions, 7-3 playoff record, one Super Bowl (and one result pending).
Through eight regular seasons, Peyton had clearly been the superior player, but Eli had more postseason success. If Eli wins his second Super Bowl, Peyton would probably trade the stats for the rings, which reopens that debate.
The rest is subjective based on the direction of the argument. Who would you take to start a franchise? Are Peyton's regular-season stats enough to mask his playoff shortcomings? How much credit does Eli deserve for the Giants' tremendous defensive effort in Super Bowl XLII, or the string of fortunate events during his game-winning drive? Or is the bottom line all that matters, considering it always takes a full team effort and some luck to win a Super Bowl?
Peyton, of course, had total control over his legacy at the end of Super Bowl XLIV, but his decisive interception led to a Colts defeat. And, naturally, if he returns to health, he could get another crack at a second Super Bowl run.
Eli, on the other hand, is a week and a half away from playing in his second Super Bowl, and he'll attempt to be the 11th quarterback in history to claim a second ring. If he can topple Brady — an unquestioned all-time great — twice in four years, it would make those two Super Bowls even more impressive. Yet, that's a legitimate "if."
Eli is on the rise, and he's got a chance to reach new heights as soon as next week. But he still has more work to do to supplant his brother at the head of the Manning football table.