Peyton Manning Has Owned Tom Brady in Their Playoff Matchups

Peyton Manning's Broncos beat Tom Brady's Patriots in the AFC Championship, and once again, Manning outplayed Brady in the matchup.

Quarterback success can be defined in a variety of ways. It's not all about wins -- in fact, quarterback wins is generally (not always) irrelevant as a statistic when you consider all the things that happen during a game have nothing to do with that particular signal-caller.

Remember, guys -- Rex Grossman went to a Super Bowl.

Passing yards, touchdowns, and interceptions all play a role in how a passer is defined. And when you divide those high-level, cumulative statistics by opportunity, you start to create an even better idea of how strong or weak a particular quarterback has performed.

It's true that no single number is going to tell you everything. There's no magic formula. But I think we can all agree that some metrics are better than others.

Enter our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, which looks at how a player impacts his team's chances of scoring through analyzing down-and-distance situations and comparing them to historical context. We all know a 10-yard gain on 3rd-and-15 isn't as big or important as a 10-yard gain on 3rd-and-9, but simple counting statistics count them the same. Net Expected Points rewards the 10-yard gain on 3rd-and-9 more than it does on the 3rd-and-15, because one gain extends the drive, while the other results in a punt.

You can read more about NEP in our glossary.

Unless you've been living under a rock, you already know the story that surrounded yesterday's AFC Championship game. It was Brady versus Manning. And it was more than likely the last time these two would meet in a big playoff game.

Going into the contest, both quarterbacks had won twice against one another in the postseason -- you could consider Sunday's matchup the rubber match.

And in that rubber match, Manning outplayed Brady. Again.

When you think of Tom Brady, you think about his postseason success. It's warranted -- he's got a whole lot of bling. But as our own Sal Cacciatore pointed out last week, Brady has actually been the regular season monster of a quarterback we all think Manning is, while Manning's been much better in the playoffs than how he's perceived.

In the matchups between these two signal-callers, too, it's very clear that Manning's outplayed Brady.

According to our Net Expected Points metric, in the five games these two quarterbacks have played against one another in the playoffs, Manning has accumulated 22.65 Passing Net Expected Points. Brady? 16.00. 

And, yes, that includes Manning's second encounter against a Brady-led team in the playoffs, where he threw four interceptions.

Manning actually owns the two best performances in the five-series clash, and three of the top five. He's also been outperformed by Brady in just one of the five playoff contests, per NEP:

GameQuarterbackPassing NEP
2013 AFC ChampionshipPeyton Manning22.74
2006 AFC ChampionshipPeyton Manning16.79
2013 AFC ChampionshipTom Brady12.05
2006 AFC ChampionshipTom Brady9.59
2004 Divisional RoundPeyton Manning2.82
2003 AFC ChampionshipTom Brady1.11
2004 Divisional RoundTom Brady-0.20
2015 AFC ChampionshipPeyton Manning-1.36
2015 AFC ChampionshipTom Brady-6.55
2003 AFC ChampionshipPeyton Manning-18.34

The 2003 AFC Championship -- again, the one where Manning threw four interceptions -- is the only game where Tom Brady outperformed him according to our expected points model.

In Manning's other loss to Brady (this is just the easiest way to phrase it -- remember, quarterback wins aren't really a thing), which came in 2005 (2004 season), Brady's stat line looks more appealing, but he also averaged just 5.3 yards per attempt and took three sacks. Manning had the better yards per attempt average, and while he did throw a pick, it came at the end of the game with 12 seconds remaining.

If you think big plays -- or something anomalous -- is contributing to Manning's success over Brady in these contests, you may want to retool your logic. Our Success Rate metric -- which measures the percentage of positive plays made by a player -- has Manning at a 50.45% rate in the five contests, while Brady's is listed at 47.52%. Both those numbers are pretty strong, especially for the playoffs, but Manning's number is far better.

In other words, with each pass, Manning was successful more often than Brady was.

This isn't to say that Manning is better than Brady, or that he's the better playoff quarterback. And this doesn't factor in things like supporting cast and defensive play (I'm sure Brady would've rather faced New England's defense on Sunday than Denver's).

But it does shed light to the idea that Sal brought up last week: Manning is a much better postseason quarterback than people realize.