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Belichick Would “Never, Ever, Ever” Underestimate Manning

You don’t earn the title of consensus number one head coach in the NFL by assuming any win would be easy. Not least of all when said win needs to come in the AFC Championship game, away from home, against one of the greatest quarterbacks ever to slide a helmet over his large forehead.

Bill Belichick – typically coy and defensive when talking to reporters – was uncharacteristically clear in his assessment of Peyton Manning this week.

“Peyton’s a great player. We’ve had tremendous battles with him through the years. There’s no player off our team I have more respect for than Payton Manning,” confided Belichick on Wednesday. “His preparation, his consistency, his skills; I would never, ever, ever underestimate him under any circumstances.”

Many talking heads around the NFL would be quick to point out that Manning is not the player he once was. While true, Manning has been playing long enough that absolutely nothing surprises him anymore, and that can be a dangerous weapon against a foe as familiar as the Patriots.

But despite the hype, this next chapter in the epic Brady-Manning rivalry – and possibly the final ever instalment – is less about the two quarterbacks trying to one-up each other, and more about who handles the opposing defense the best.

In the regular season, it was Denver’s stifling D that put an end to New England’s undefeated season, and was the catalyst for a mini-slide by the Patriots that ultimately helped give the Broncos the right to host this game.

But that was with Brock Osweiler at the helm, at a time when many doubted if the great Manning would ever see the field again. Ageing body be damned; his turnover-free performance against the opportunistic Steelers last week proved that his poor play in 2015 was primarily caused by a foot injury, not Father Time.

With a strong supportive cast and an elite defense by his side, Peyton no longer needs to be Superman to earn another Super Bowl appearance. He might not even need to be Aquaman or the Green Lantern, but Darth Belichick isn’t taking any chances anyway.

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