General 'n' majors

Steve Macfarlane -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 6:35 AM ET

Peyton Manning's dream season will place him in the record book as a football God but he already has millions worshipping him on a weekly basis. Fantasy players with the Indianapolis Colts QB on their roster can credit Manning for playoff berths.

"I've got a lot of fantasy thank-you letters," the hot-handed pivot, who needs just three more touchdown passes this season to pass Dan Marino's 1984 record of 48, said yesterday during an NFL conference call. "The most common statement besides, 'Can I have your autograph?' is 'Hey, you're on my fantasy team. Throw more touchdowns,' or throw it to Reggie Wayne or to Marvin Harrison more."

Of course, Manning and his fantasy fans have different agendas. The record chase -- and subsequent fantasy points -- is secondary to the QB.

As Manning stated over and over again when asked yesterday to comment on his imminent entry into the record books, winning comes first.

"Sometimes I'll be, I don't know, at an airport sometimes. A guy will say, 'Hey, that was a tough game, huh?' " said Manning, citing an example of a fan encounter. "I'll say, 'We won.' He's like, 'Yeah, it was 10-7. You didn't throw any touchdowns.' I'll say, 'You and I have different goals here, buddy.' "

With three regular-season games remaining and just one score a game to go, Manning's new mark is as close to a sure thing as there is. Side bets on when he would toss his 49th touchdown were being placed weeks ago but the odds are decidedly against the young seven-year veteran throwing three this weekend when the Baltimore Ravens visit the RCA Dome.

Last week, the Baltimore defence blasted Manning's younger brother Eli during the Ravens' 37-14 win over the New York Giants. The rookie pivot tossed a pair of picks and coughed up a fumble while completing four of 18 passes for 27 yards before being mercifully yanked in the final quarter.

Peyton, though, isn't worried about his brother's future. He knows the Manning quarterback tradition is to learn from your mistakes. His dad Archie did it with the New Orleans Saints and Peyton suffered a few growing pains as a rookie starter with the Colts.

"The key is -- and I can tell he's doing it -- it's just to learn from every situation and just file it in your mind and use it to your advantage the next week as you get more and more comfortable," said Peyton of his brother's struggles.

"I know Eli's doing that. He's going to be a heck of a quarterback. Obviously, I'm biased, I'm his brother. But I have a pretty good feel for quarterbacks. I can kind of tell who gets it and who doesn't. He gets it."

While he's comfortable gazing into the crystal ball to forecast his brother's future, Manning won't look past his televised battle Sunday against Baltimore (TSN, 6:30 p.m.).

"They have excellent players, to start with, and that's really the key to all defences," Manning said of a team with a secondary featuring such top defenders as Chris McAlister, Gary Baxter, Deion Sanders and Ed Reed.

Marino's record seems safe for at least another week.

Don't count Manning out, though. He says he doesn't talk about the touchdown mark with his dad, brother or coach but being hounded by media for six weeks has forced the gunslinger to think about it.

"I guess the more I think about it, the more I'm just really impressed by what Marino did," Manning said.

"I'm such a fan of the history of the game, I'm just very humbled to be in this situation."


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