INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Jim Kelly or Troy Aikman. Fran Tarkenton or Terry Bradshaw. Dan Fouts or Joe Montana. Dan Marino or John Elway.

A few years from now, Peyton Manning will be forever placed into one category of the NFL's greatest quarterbacks - those who have won Super Bowls and those who haven't. He's got to get there first, though.

Will the Colts-Patriots game Sunday amount to a defining moment, an all-or-nothing opportunity for Manning, who is currently The Greatest Quarterback to Never Make a Super Bowl? If he wins, maybe history will see it that way. If he doesn't - well, he'll have other chances. Won't he?

His coach and teammates hate that it always seems to come to this.

"It's totally unfair to him," tight end Dallas Clark said. "He has his job to do and he can't do anything else. It's sad, but that's why you guys do what you do. He handles it great. He's a professional."

Manning’s career is filled with records, Pro Bowls, MVP awards. But he is 5-6 in the playoffs with an 0-2 record against New England's Tom Brady, the less-spectacular quarterback who has always been best when the stakes have been the highest. Brady is 12-1 in the playoffs with three Super Bowl rings.

"I don't know that he'll be judged against Tom Brady," Colts coach Tony Dungy said. "But every quarterback will be judged against Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw and Bart Starr and guys who have won Super Bowls. That's the way it is.”

Manning, of course, is hoping he won't need friendly historians to cement his legacy. A Super Bowl ring is the easiest - perhaps only - way to avoid that.

Funny thing is that he finds himself on the cusp of the Super Bowl again - Manning's second appearance in the AFC championship game - after a most un-Peyton-like run through the playoffs.

He has 438 yards in two games, fewer than he recorded in his second playoff blowout over the Broncos in 2004. He has one touchdown pass and five interceptions. His quarterback rating is 58.3.

Yet just as he has struggled, the defense has also been uncharacteristic - allowing only a single touchdown and an average of 63.5 rushing yards.