INDIANAPOLIS -- Eli Manning has lived in his older brother's shadow.
He was one of the nation's top recruits after passing for 7,421 career yards at Isidore Newman High in New Orleans, but it was 107 yards short of Peyton's school record. He set University of Mississippi career passing records for yards (10,119) and touchdowns (81), but it was 1,082 yards and eight touchdowns fewer than Peyton had at Tennessee.
He was the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2004, but Peyton, also a No. 1 pick, already had won his first league MVP award by then.
He won Super Bowl MVP honors in the Giants' 17-14 victory over the New England Patriots to end the 2007 season, but Peyton beat him to it a year earlier.
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For once, Eli can do something Peyton has never done: He can win a second Super Bowl, and he can do it in "the house Peyton built."
"If you play this game long enough you realize how precious each season is and how precious these opportunities are," Eli said. "You don't know if you're going to get a chance to play in another Super Bowl. You don't know when a season might be cut short on you."
While Peyton's future is in doubt because of a neck injury that required spinal fusion surgery, Eli's future couldn't be brighter. He can become only the 11th quarterback with at least two Super Bowl titles.
It would more than certify his elite status.
In August, Michael Kay asked Eli on ESPN Radio if Eli considered himself "in a class with Tom Brady." Manning answered, "I consider myself in that class."
It set off a debate, with Manning being ridiculed by some. Three postseason victories later, no one is arguing.
"He's never ever been anything less than a top [quarterback] to me, and that's all I care about," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "...He is elite, period."
The Giants got their franchise quarterback in a draft-day trade with the San Diego Chargers for Philip Rivers in a deal demanded by Manning's father, Archie. Ernie Accorsi, then the team's general manager, wrote in his scouting report that Eli "has the ability to put a team on his shoulders and carry them."
"Our backup plan was Ben Roethlisberger, so either way we felt like we were in good shape," Giants co-owner John Mara said. "But we had our hearts set on Eli at the time. I think mostly because of the level of competition he had played, and the fact that he really was that team at Ole Miss. He didn't have a lot of talent around him, and I think that's what tipped the scales in his favor for us at that time."
Manning had his best season in 2011, passing for a career-high 4,933 yards with 29 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. His 20 total turnovers were 10 fewer than last season, when he led the league.
He was at his best in the fourth quarter when he engineered seven fourth-quarter comebacks and eight game-winning drives, including the postseason. Manning completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 1,936 yards with 18 touchdowns, six interceptions and a 111.9 rating in the fourth quarter this season.
"He's a tremendous competitor and when we need it, he's been able to dig deep to be able to find it," defensive lineman Chris Canty said. "That's a tremendous asset for him and for our football team. I'm just excited that the guy is on my side."
Peyton still has more MVP awards (4 to 0), more All-Pros (5 to 0), more Pro Bowls (11 to 2) and more yards (54,828 to 27,579). But he has nothing on Eli.
"As a player, I don't think you think about your legacy," Eli said. "You prepare to play games, to win games. We have an opportunity to win a championship. That is all I'm thinking about -- what this will mean to the New York Giants organization and our fans and what it will mean for certain players, for a guy like Deon Grant who has played for 12 or 13 years and never won a championship. ...What it would mean for Victor Cruz or Hakeem Nicks to win a championship. You put your teammates and coaches above yourself and what it would mean to them."