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“They do a great job of keeping guys accountable, and their leadership skills and everything else,” he said. “They are two guys you want quarterbacking your team. It’s a toss-up between those two.”

Manning has thrown for 92 touchdowns since arriving in Denver at the start of the 2012 season, his neck rebuilt from multiple surgeries, his future uncertain because of his weakened throwing arm.

He’d be the first to admit he’s not the same as he once was, physically. But nobody prepares better.

His record-setting 5,477 yards and all those touchdown throws came with a gifted group of offensive stars surrounding him - Welker, Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas and this season’s difference maker, 6-foot-5 tight end Julius Thomas. But Manning had great players around him in Indianapolis, as well, and never put up these sort of numbers.

“Honestly, no one will probably ever break that, not in this day and age,” former Broncos receiver Rod Smith said.

On Sunday, Brady, who missed parts of practice early in the week with the flu, will be going against a depleted secondary that just lost cornerback Chris Harris Jr., which will make Champ Bailey - injured most of the season - a bigger cog for the Denver ‘D.’

And the Patriots will likely invite the Broncos to run- much the way they did in their 34-31 overtime loss in Week 12 - knowing the best chance of beating them is by taking the ball out of Manning’s hands.

This 60 minutes (or more), their first title-game meeting since Manning’s 38-34 comeback win en route to his first Super Bowl in 2007, could mark the last time the top two QBs of their - or any - era meet for these stakes.

Brady is 36 and, though relatively healthy, he has taken a beating over his career. Some say the Patriots, their roster decimated by injuries, defections and the arrest of Hernandez, got this far on smoke and mirrors this season. How much longer can they hold things together at a championship level?

And Manning? He is 37 and his future will largely depend on how his neck looks when doctors examine it during the offseason. The Broncos, meanwhile, are built to win right now, and have made it this far despite a rash of injuries on both sides of the ball.

No guarantees about the future.

“They’re thinking about it during the week,” Simms said. “When they play, they play. But when it’s over, one of them will go, ‘Yep, I got him again.’”

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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