Some of my earliest football memories came during Peyton Manning and Charles Woodson’s college careers in the mid 1990’s. Both Manning and Woodson played integral parts of their teams run for a national championship. Charles Woodson and his Michigan Wolverines squad got that championship while Peyton Manning and his Tennessee Volunteers faltered at the end of the season. Manning and Woodson also faced off at the Heisman trophy ceremony as it was a foregone conclusion that Manning would take the trophy as no defensive player had ever won the coveted collegiate award. However, Woodson once again topped Manning by becoming the first defensive player to ever win the Heisman trophy. Neither men has disappointed in their careers as they both are Super Bowl champions and first ballot Hall-of-Famers.
Fast forward to tonight, nearly 16 years since Manning and Woodson were college foes, they are squaring off once again as division rivals in Denver. While Manning looks as good as ever, Woodson has a chip on his shoulder to prove all his critics wrong. Last week, Woodson had a crazy acrobatic tackle that not only saved a touchdown but took Maurice Jones Drew out of the game. Now that fellow safety Tyvon Branch is out for the foreseeable future, Woodson must have a career game for the Oakland Raiders to have a shot to beat Peyton Manning and the Broncos.
Woodson must make sure that Demaryus Thomas and Eric Decker don’t have big catches against the blitzing Raiders defense. If Woodson can help stop the deep throws, the Raiders front seven can have a field day beating up Manning throughout the game. Along with linebacker Nick Roach, Woodson must make sure the new look Raiders defense knows their assignments against Manning’s continuous audibles.
We must not forget that Woodson was almost a Denver Bronco himself this offseason. Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey was so confident that Woodson would be his teammate that he said there would be “no friggin way” Woodson would sign with the lowly Raiders.
Throughout their careers, Woodson has shown that he has always one upped the great Manning, so hopefully he can do it one more time tonight. The Raider Nation saw that Woodson is still as athletic as ever last week against the Jaguars but tonight the whole country can see that C-Wood is just as great as ever.