There's something about Archie Manning's easygoing drawl that makes you think nothing gets him too bothered. But don't be fooled. He's as antsy as you might expect the father of two NFL quarterbacks to be at this time of year, especially with Peyton and Eli Manning heading into the biggest games of the season.
Archie and his wife, Olivia, will be in Indianapolis on Sunday to watch Peyton and the Colts in a do-or-die game against the Jaguars. In their direct line of vision will be a TV tuned to the Giants game at the same time, with Eli facing the Eagles for first place in the NFC East.
"Usually, for times like these, I like to stay home and watch them on the big screen, but we have a little plan where we can watch them both," Archie said by phone from his home in New Orleans.
He and his wife used to go to away games to see their sons play live. They don't do that anymore, however, unless it's the playoffs — and in that case it's often Archie at the Colts and Olivia at the Giants. As it is, they make three or four trips to both Indianapolis and New York.
"We don't travel as much," he said. "I kind of like my TV in my den. I'm getting old, and the travel kind of beats you up."
If there's a Manning truly getting beaten up this season, it's Peyton. His sack numbers are typically low (14), but he has been knocked around more than in recent years.
It doesn't help that he's playing behind a retooled offensive line and is missing some of his favorite middle-of-the-field targets: tight end Dallas Clark, receiver Austin Collie and running back Joseph Addai.
The Colts can't run the ball, even facing defenses with two deep safeties, and opponents take advantage, cranking up the pass rush on virtually every down.
"That's the thing about football," Archie, 61, said. "You can't run and hide. Maybe at first they were kind of getting by. But if you have some deficiencies, sooner or later they're going to be discovered. And if one team discovers it, the next team does too — unless they're like you and so hurt they can't act on it."
Peyton bounced back last week after an unimaginably bad stretch in which he had 11 interceptions in three games, with four of those returned for touchdowns.
"I think that wore on him," his dad conceded. "But he comes to play. All that stuff about people being worried about him, and 'Keep your head up,' Peyton doesn't play that game. He gets a little high in spirits after a win — that's what you're supposed to do — but it doesn't last long. He doesn't go in the tank after a loss. He just goes back to work and comes back to play the next week."
Meanwhile, the Giants are tied with the Eagles atop the NFC East at 9-4, and Eli just lost Pro Bowl receiver Steve Smith for the remainder of the season to a knee injury. He's the fifth receiver the Giants have placed on injured reserve this season.
Eli leads the league with 19 interceptions — four more than his brother — and has played behind six offensive-line combinations, including playing without three Pro Bowl linemen at various times.
He has had plenty of highs and lows this season … and his parents have been right there with him.
"Sometimes I reflect on the whole ride," Archie said. "If you think about it, I have one son in his 13th year and one in his seventh. If you think it's going to be smooth every week and smooth every year, you're crazy.
"It has been a different season."
A little flattery never hurt: While most people believe the NFL's two top quarterbacks are Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, debating only the order, Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs begs to differ. He says the Saints' Drew Brees is at the top of the pile.
"Well, in my eyes he's better," Suggs told Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post. "Maybe it could be my personal vendetta against the other guys, but he's definitely one of the premier quarterbacks in this league and he has got the numbers to prove it. And not only that, he has the hardware to prove it."
The Ravens play host to Brees and the Saints on Sunday.
What's up, Holmes? Jets receiver Santonio Holmes doesn't expect much from Steelers fans.
Uproarious applause will be sufficient when the Jets play in Pittsburgh on Sunday.
"I'm pretty sure (the fans) will give me a standing ovation once I get on the field," the former Steelers Super Bowl MVP told the Newark Star-Ledger. "I'm pretty sure you'll look in the stands and see a lot of No. 10 jerseys with 'Holmes' on the back from the Steelers."
Here's guessing those fans will be swirling their Terrible Towels. If Holmes wants to interpret that as a standing ovation, so be it.