ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- **For years, they've dropped jaws with their performances, caused defensive coordinators to shake their heads in bewilderment and set standards for quarterback play in the NFL.
But as Peyton Manning and Tom Brady prepare to meet for the 15th time of their careers -- and for the fourth time in the postseason -- in Sunday's AFC Championship Game, the focus of both quarterbacks lies not on the historical context of their personal history, but on preparing for a showdown between the Broncos and Patriots with a trip to Super Bowl XLVIII on the line.
"I'm pretty much focused on this week," Brady said. "I don't really think about those things truthfully. It's just not where my mind is."
That's certainly not to say, however, that there has been an absence of mutual respect shown by the two players throughout the week.
"He's a great player, they've got a great team and one of the best offenses in history," Brady said regarding the four-time NFL MVP Manning. "I think what that means for us is we better be ready to score some points because that's what they do best."
Manning echoed those sentiments for his New England counterpart, who has won more postseason games than any quarterback in NFL history.
"Tom Brady is an incredibly competitive quarterback that has played his best football in so many big games," Manning said.
"I know our defense is in for a tough challenge facing Tom and their offense," he added. "We have to do our part offensively."
Manning and Brady have combined to throw for 114,103 yards and 850 career touchdowns. They've both been named Super Bowl MVP, NFL MVP and Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year.
So when it comes to comparing the two quarterbacks, Broncos Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway noted that there isn't any clearly defined answer because of the different variables that both players have experienced during their careers.
After all, Elway knows a thing or two about quarterbacking in his own right.
"I think that when you look at those two guys, to me, comparing quarterbacks was comparing apples to oranges in a way because every system is different," Elway said. "What every quarterback is asked to do is different."
Elway did, however, offer one definitive take on the matter.
"Believe me, you would be in very fine shape with either one of those guys," he said.
Manning listed Brady among the best quarterbacks that he has competed against, noting that he doesn't compile any specific order or ranking.
"I've been fortunate to play against some great quarterbacks—(former Miami Dolphins QB) Dan Marino, (former Dallas Cowboys QB) Troy Aikman, (former Green Bay Packers QB) Brett Favre, (former San Francisco 49ers QB) Steve Young, Tom Brady, (Green Bay Packers QB) Aaron Rodgers, (New York Giants QB) Eli Manning—the list goes on and on and on," Manning said. "I never had a chance to play against (former Broncos QB) John Elway. And so I know rankings and lists are important to a lot of people — I have such great respect for all of them and if you want to name anybody in any order on any list, that's fine."
Ultimately, Manning noted, simply being in such company speaks volumes.
"It's just flattering to be in the conversation," he said. "But I think my thoughts and respect for Tom are pretty well-documented if you look back in any previous interview."
Manning added that the longevity of his on-field relationship with Brady has made for a unique one off the field, as well.
"It's a pretty unique fraternity that all quarterbacks are in and Tom's been playing the longest along with me during our career," he said. "We've played against each other a lot and we've both played a lot of football. I enjoy really trying to get to know a number of quarterbacks. Any chance to get to spend some time with them, maybe in the offseason at a banquet or at a golf tournament – talking a little ball, I've always enjoyed that part of it. And I've certainly enjoyed doing that with Tom during the times we've had a chance to do that."
And on Sunday, they'll have a chance to do what they've both done best: lead their respective teams on the gridiron. It's another rendition of a meeting the two quarterbacks have engaged in so many times over the years, but it's also a history that Brady noted has little bearing on what will happen when the Broncos and Patriots play for a berth in the Super Bowl.
"None of it really matters," Brady said. "It's just all about this game."