For the Giants, that will be a night game, too. It will be a nationally
televised contest against the Indianapolis Colts, already being called the "Brother
Bowl" since it will pit quarterback Peyton Manning of the Colts against his
younger sibling, Eli, quarterback of the Giants.
Their father, famous former quarterback Archie Manning, was asked if he
planned to attend.
"Of course," he said.
And where will his rooting interests lie?
"With my son," of course.
Fine, but where will that leave the Giants once the game is played?
"I have never beaten Peyton in anything," Eli says, "and, in fact, I have
only played against him in basketball. We have never been on the same football
field together. I am looking forward to this but I can't allow it to take up too
much of my attention. You know, in a way I'm glad it's the opening game. That
way, no matter what happens, we'll have 15 weeks to sort things out."
There is no doubt that NBC, back in the NFL business again with a weekly
Sunday night offering, campaigned long and loud for this game. It is a remarkable
viewer attraction, and ratings figure to be astronomical.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin, however, won't comment on the other aspects of
the game, saying only, "It's our season opener and we want to win it."
He acknowledges that Eli Manning has played better and better since his
rookie year of 2004, when he started the final seven games of the season. He took
the Giants to a playoff appearance last season, though it ended with a
humiliating 23-0 first-round loss to Carolina. Coughlin notes that Manning "is smarter
and bigger and playing with more confidence this summer."
Manning played just part of the first quarter Friday night against the
Ravens, completing 4 of 7 passes for 74 yards and leading the Giants on an 80-yard
drive capped with a 1-yard touchdown run by second-year back Brandon Jacobs.
"We did all right on that drive," Manning said, "but we still have a lot of
work to do."
The way Coughlin operates is to quietly install a goal for the players, and
in this case, according to many of them, the goal is to win that opening game.
He hasn't gone quite so far as to say "Win it for Eli," but the unspoken
incentive is there.
The players feel they can become part of a special team this season, perhaps
even a Super Bowl contender, and winning the Brother Bowl would take them a
long way in that direction.