For Eli, Peyton is family first and foremostCompetitors on the field, Manning brothers remain close off it
This week is tough, though. The New York Giants are playing Peyton's Denver Broncos on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, and all the focus is on the brothers. So Eli played it straight.
He talked family, growing up with Peyton and their older brother Cooper, and the love that binds them.
''They were good big brothers,'' Eli said. ''I am sure I took a little torture like any little brother should, some deserved at some point. I think at the time I didn't like it, but it toughened me up a little. Overall, Peyton and Cooper have been great big brothers and have supported me and helped me. We are very close. We rely on each other for advice and guidance in anything that might be happening in our lives.''
Peyton and Eli will probably talk some time before Sunday's game, but it won't be the normal conversation. Usually, they discuss opponents and try to help each other.
It's just not going to happen that way this week, especially with the Giants (0-1) coming off a self-inflicted, six-turnover loss at Dallas and the Broncos (1-0) off to a great start following a seven-touchdown passing performance by Peyton in a season-opening win over defending champion Baltimore.
The Giants need a win.
''That's the only aspect that there is,'' said Eli, who has led the Giants to two Super Bowls titles, one more than Peyton. ''It's a big game. We're playing an extremely talented team. We'd like to go out there and play better than we did last week and find a way to win the game and hopefully get our first win of the season."
There might be some who think Eli and Peyton have this great sibling rivalry, particularly since Peyton is 2-0 against Eli in the NFL.
The truth is when the two play golf, they are usually paired together. Basketball is a toss-up and the thought of who bench presses more only made Eli laugh.
''We didn't really compete a whole lot just because he is five years older than me,'' the 32-year-old Eli said. ''When he left for college at 18, I was 13. There's only so much you can compete at in sports. As I got older, we competed in a little basketball or even now we play golf. You compete a little bit, but a lot of it is a lot of fun and we enjoy being around each other and from a football standpoint, we always try to support each other, help each other, work out in the offseason, look at tape of each other and during the season we try to help each other out if we're playing similar teams. So it's really more of a support deal than it's been competitive over the years.''
If Eli did anything growing up with Peyton, it was to learn from him. He picked his brain about the quarterback drills Peyton was learning at Tennessee, what goes into the decision-making process on the field, how receiver route combinations work. And Peyton was willing to share it with his little brother.
The street hasn't always been a one way.
When Peyton's career was jeopardized by a neck injury in 2011, Eli was there for him, supporting him and giving him feedback on his rehabilitation.
''You don't know when it's going to be over or how quickly the game can be taken away from you. So you've got to cherish it every day,'' Eli said.
The Mannings understand how rare Sunday will be. They have done it twice before and both remember standing on the sideline looking across the field and seeing the other as the national anthem played. It's rare it happens in sport, but even rarer when the brothers have the distinction of being Super Bowl MVPs, with Eli doing it twice.
''Eli is a great player,'' Peyton said. ''He's a consistent player. I think he's gotten better every year. I've always thought that's the goal for a brand new player is to try to be a better player each year than the year before. He's made things happen with different players, different receivers and different running backs. He's been very flexible to adjust to the different players that he's played with. But his consistency as a player has been awfully impressive.''
Eli sidestepped the question when asked if his brother might be the NFL's all-time greatest quarterback.
''If you are in that argument you are playing pretty good football,'' Eli said.
It's something both Manning have done throughout their careers.
''Hopefully when I think back on these games that we played against my brother, I can think back and remember at least one win,'' Eli said with a sly smile.