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In this Nov. 21, 2010, file photo, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning (18) shakes hands with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady after New England's 31-28 win in an NFL game in Foxborough, Mass. (Winslow Townson/AP)
In this Nov. 21, 2010, file photo, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning (18) shakes hands with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady after New England's 31-28 win in an NFL game in Foxborough, Mass. (Winslow Townson/AP)

MacLeod: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady to resume playoff hostilities once again Add to ...

All is right in the National Football League these days.

Peyton Manning was his virtuoso self, barking out the orders – what is “Omaha” anyway? - and then picking apart the game, but ultimately over-matched, San Diego Chargers 24-17 Sunday night.

The victory sets up just what the NFL executives were praying for, another juicy AFC championship ratings bonanza this Sunday featuring Manning against Tom Brady, only the best quarterbacking rivalry the league has to offer.

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Brady and the Patriots punched their ticket with a 43-22 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday.

For those keeping track, the game will mark the 15th time that the two greats will hook up against one another, with Brady dominating the meetings with a 10-4 won-loss record.

Brady also leads 5-2 in Super Bowl appearances.

“Tom Brady has just been an outstanding quarterback for such a long time, but the game next week is the Broncos vs. the Patriots,” Manning said, trying to underplay the extent of the rivalry. “I know there will be some individual matchups that will get headlines, but it will be a battle between two good teams.”

With the victory, Manning erased all the bad memories from a year ago when the Broncos experienced a meltdown against the Baltimore Ravens, the eventual Super Bowl champion, in the first round of the playoffs.

And don’t think that double-overtime loss was not the elephant in the room after the Chargers had reduced what had been a 17-point Broncos’ lead down to an uncomfortable seven in the fourth quarter.

"I think it was on everybody's mind in the whole stadium," said Denver defensive tackle Terrance Knighton.

Then Manning tossed a perfect 21-yard strike downfield to Julius Thomas for a key first down late in the fourth quarter that ensured there would not be a stirring comeback by the opposition this time around.

It might be a good idea to enjoy Manning while you can as this might be his final go-round.

The 37-year-old, four-time league MVP will have an off-season neck exam and he will have to decide on whether or not to retire if the tests reveal he has an increased risk of injury.

All four of the favorites won over the weekend, including the San Francisco 49ers, who took Sunday’s other playoff matchup, beating the Carolina Panthers 23-10.

The 49ers will now have the unenviable task of heading into Seattle for the NFC championship on Sunday to face the high-flying Seahawks, who crunched the New Orleans Saints 23-15.

And you had to enjoy the little bit of gamesmanship 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick exhibited, mocking Carolina quarterback Cam Newton’s “Superman” TD pose after Kaepernick scored on a four-yard scramble in the third quarter.

Newton shrugged it all off, saying it is not the first or the last time someone would do that.

Kaepernick called it “just a little shout out.”

Kaepernick better have some of that moxy left in reserve for the Seahawks, who have outscored San Francisco 71-16 at home in their past two games.

And the Seahawks have already announced that they will not be selling any tickets for the NFC championship to California-based buyers, thereby ensuring the din at CenturyLink Field will be typically ear-splitting.

Not normally a man of many words, Kaepernick summed up the upcoming game against the Seahawks in succinct fashion.

"Yeah, I think we're the two teams everybody was looking at from the beginning,'' admitted the 49ers' third-year quarterback, looking ahead to next Sunday's showdown of NFC West rivals. "It's going to be a knock-down, drag-out game.''

 

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