Call it Reading (Defenses) with Payton and Eli. Call it Manning Night Football. Call it Brothers With Arms. Whatever you call it, the alternate Monday Night Football broadcast from ESPN featuring former quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Eli Manning is creating a buzz this NFL season.
In each of the first three weeks of the season, ESPN and Peyton Manning’s production company have put together a “megacast” feed of the MNF broadcast available on ESPN 2. The brothers and former two-time Super Bowl champions comment on the game live in a picture-in-picture format, inviting celebrity athletes to join them throughout the game. Viewership for the Manning Night Football broadcasts have steadily increased, and the Manning Boys loose, downhome performance is charming fans and NFL and sports media observers.
Ratings Soar for Manning Night Football
In Week One for the Ravens/Raiders game in Las Vegas, the Manning broadcast drew 800,000 viewers. But in Week Two for the Lions/Packers tilt, that number surged to 1.9 million, according to USA Today. Week Three ratings aren’t out yet, but given the social media buzz surrounding the broadcasts, it’s safe to predict the Manning’s will get even better numbers this week.
Review: Peyton and Eli Monday Night Football Megacast
The format is simple yet genius: the two brothers are at their own locations watching the MNF game. Eli has a setup in his home in New Jersey, but reportedly Peyton (who lives primarily in Denver) does his bit from a sports memorabilia shop turned studio in the Mile High City. Both brothers have an elaborate array of screens and special feeds of camera angles in front of them, courtesy of ESPN, which broadcasts MNF on their mother station as well as on parent company ABC.
The camera setup makes it so we’re looking right into the eyes of Peyton and Eli as they observe the game action. The sound of the main ESPN/ABC feed is lowered so viewers can hear what the brothers have to say. This broadcast is not for those fans who want (or need) their hands held while watching an NFL game. This is for hardcore pigskin geeks.
Peyton: The Good Ol’ Boy QB Savant
Combine a Rain Man-like laser-focus on X’s and O’s with a marvelous sense of humor, and you get Peyton Manning, arguably the greatest QB in history and now one of the best on-air football observers the game has ever had.
- It’s possible no athlete has ever understood his sport and his position better than Peyton knows pro football and playing quarterback. His analysis is so solid, so obviously based in experience and encyclopedic knowledge of the NFL, that you accept it as gospel as soon as it drips from the corner of his mouth. Peyton is so good at seeing the field and understanding what’s going on, that you don’t want there to be a halftime. You just want play-after-play-after-play.
- There’s no denying that Peyton is an entertainer who understands how to tell a story, turn a phrase, and be funny. His Saturday Night Live hosting gig still remains probably the best ever by an athlete. He combines a “gee whiz” Gomer Pyle type of persona with a sophisticated sense of humor. He’s clearly the unnamed host of this show, steering the broadcast by including his brother (whom he affectionately calls “E”) and the guest who may happen to be on air.
- Of the two brothers, Peyton acts more like the unabashed NFL fan. He’s exuberant when a play succeeds, and he’s crestfallen when it doesn’t. He’ll lean back in his chair and gran his head when a QB misses a receiver, and he’ll spin a football in his hands nervously, as if he’s ready to run in from the sidelines to toss a pass.
- Honest criticism. On a regular NFL telecast, former players are often reticent to criticize coaches and players. Not Peyton. The Hall of Fame legend is unapologetically honest with his opinions on play calling. As in Week 3 when he ripped Dallas coach Mike McCarthy for choosing not to kick a field goal late in the first half.
- In part because of the nature of the production of the broadcast, Peyton can have difficulty with talking over or under guests or his brother.
- At times, Big Bro is too quiet: he needs to reign in Eli when Lil Bro is droning on too much. We want as much analysis and inside football stories from Peyton as we can get.
Eli: Everyone’s Strange Little Brother
I can’t help it: I find myself staring at Eli the most during these broadcasts. Lil’ Bro consistently has an “aw shucks” look on his face: mouth agape, slight smirk, bushy eyebrows bouncing along with the football. It’s hard to resist the guy. There’s something about his demeanor that makes Eli fascinating. Maybe it’s the fact that he was “the other brother,” a two-time Super Bowl champ who will probably make the Hall of Fame, but was clearly not even close to as talented as his big brother. And that seems just fine with him. Eli obviously respects (maybe even hero worships) Peyton. In a way, he’s still the little brother tagging along trying to do something cool with his Big Bro.
“These hips don’t lie. I’m like Shakira.”@EliManning showing us the hips don’t lie 😂 pic.twitter.com/3mneP6r5qh
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 28, 2021
- Dry sense of humor actually makes him funnier than his brother. Eli’s humor can be weird, like in Week 3 when he demonstrated how a QB’s swivel movements were key to torque. “These hips don’t lie,” Eli said, “I’m like Shakira.”
- While Peyton can go silent sometimes when he’s deep in analysis of the game action, Eli is usually the voice that fills the occasional dead air.
- Eli has the best inside-Manning family references, whether it’s what angry Eagles fans used to holler about his mom, or stories about Archie and his brothers.
- While Eli typically has excellent points to make about the action on the field, he can be longwinded, which doesn’t allow for his brother or a guest to say something about a play.
- Too often relies on the same “they were in some sort of zone coverage” phrases.
- Sometimes Eli’s commentary is too traditional, as if he is mimicking what regular MNF analyst might say. He needs to shun convention and embrace the weird, non-traditional nature of this Manning Night Football megacast.
No One Reads A Defense Like a Manning Brother, Because A Manning Brother Don’t Stop
Maybe the best part of the Manning broadcasts are the lightning-quick defensive reads by Peyton and Eli. The best is when the brothers are moving their heads from side to side, clearly searching for the best camera angle that lets them see the defensive setups. Both brothers, but especially Peyton, will spit out the scheme quickly and usually have great analysis for why it’s smart or dumb. If you want to learn how an NFL quarterback runs the show on the field and how difficult it really is to play that position, there’s nothing like the Manning breakdowns.
When Will The Manning Monday Night Football Broadcast Return?
According to ESPN, the Manning Bros. will be on the air for ten alternate broadcasts during Monday Night Football this season. Their next broadcast will be in Week Seven for Saints vs. Seahawks. The brothers will be on the air for three weeks starting with Week Seven, including a Giants/Chiefs matchup in Week Eight.
Raiders vs. Chargers (Oct 4) Monday Night Football Odds
According to FanDuel sportsbook, the Chargers are -3 1/2 (-106) with a Moneyline of -184 for next week’s MNF matchup.
The visiting Raiders are +3 1/2 (+114) with a +154 Moneyline against the Chargers. FanDuel has the Over/Under at 52 1/2 (-110)