"Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli" – better known as the "ManningCast" – has been the breakout TV hit of the 2021 NFL season, a bizarre bouillabaisse of football analysis, celebrity kibitzing and sibling chops-busting.
But Week 8 brought a twist: Eli Manning for the first time having to analyze a game involving the Giants, with whom he won two Super Bowls and for which he still works on the business and media end.
The result? Pretty much a bizarre bouillabaisse of football analysis, celebrity kibitzing and sibling chops-busting.
Not that there is anything wrong with that, for fans of teams not playing in the game and thus not emotionally invested in the outcome – a 20-17 Kansas City victory, as it turned out – or Eli fans who want more of him and less of Daniel Jones.
The "ManningCast" certainly is not for everyone, but the episode was another quirky funhouse ride, full of one-liners in and around visits from Jon Stewart, Michael Strahan, Josh Allen and Michael Irvin.
Peyton had the line of the night when Stewart jokingly wondered why the Manning family can’t produce another quarterback or two to help the Giants.
"My dad’s stud fee has really gone up in the past 20 years," Peyton said.
Later, his father, Archie, who is 72, texted him, "My phone has lit up from stud fee."
There was more where that came from, including video of Peyton devouring a chicken cutlet with his hands at halftime, and Eli saying, "Are you breathing?"
But on this night, the dynamic many were most curious about was how Eli would handle watching his former team, and some former teammates, including Jones. Eli last played in 2019.
Eli did not hide his allegiance – Peyton first called him a "homer" before the opening drive was over – and was reluctant to be critical.
He struggled with that when it came to the offensive line.
After Jones threw an incompletion under pressure, Eli said disgustedly, "It doesn’t help when he’s taking shots like that. He’s throwing a 4-yard out and he’s getting drilled right in the face. This is what you can’t have."
Earlier, Eli had said the line is not built for extended pass protection, and Stewart joked, "Other than a buffet at Golden Corral, what are they built for?"
Said Eli, "You’re putting me in a very difficult position here, Jon."
For Giants fans, the most satisfying guest surely was Strahan in the second quarter. Strahan, a studio analyst for Fox, wore a Giants shirt and rooted for his old team even more openly than did Manning.
Peyton struggled to get a word in as the two reminisced about their Super Bowl XLII victory together, including a picture of them celebrating after that game.
"You saved my career, my life," Strahan said. "You made 15 years of playing in the NFL worth it. I was so happy, man. I love you."
ESPN2 showed Strahan rushing Tom Brady in that game after Peyton reminded him that the previous Monday night Brady had dismissed defensive players as "dogs chasing cars."
Said Strahan, "That was what you call a defensive end chasing a ring, and we got it."
Strahan noted the frustrating decade that has passed since Eli won a second Super Bowl after the 2011 season, saying, "It’s been too long."
Said Eli, "I feel you."
At one point Strahan asked the retired quarterbacks why teams so often run routes that are short of the first-down marker on third down. On cue, the Giants did exactly that on the next play, and Strahan was beside himself.
When Kansas City got the ball in the waning minutes with the score tied at 17, Peyton said, "Eli, I have bad news for you. I think Patrick Mahomes is taking them down the field and winning the game."
Eli responded, "That’s not what I want to hear, Peyt. That’s not what I want to hear at all."
Peyton said, "It’s going to happen."
When it was over, Peyton announced the ManningCast would take next Monday off.
"Perfect," Eli said. "I don’t like talking to you every Monday."
Regarding the Giants, Peyton closed with, "Maybe they get healthy, get on a little run here."
Said Eli: "I hope so."