Eli, Peyton Manning dazzle, but the curse is real

From the f-bomb heard ‘round the football world to the ManningCast curse to forehead jokes and guests galore, Eli and Peyton Manning served up something fresh and fun this season with the inaugural ManningCast this NFL season.

The alternate “Monday Night Football’’ telecast on ESPN2 gave the Manning brothers an optimal platform to show they’re not your typical retired NFL quarterbacks. They mostly shined during 10 ManningCasts, the last one delivered Monday night when the Los Angeles Rams beat the Arizona Cardinals to advance to the divisional round of the playoffs.

Now it’s time to look back and identify the winners and losers.

There were plenty of both.

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32 THINGS WE LEARNED: More excitement ahead after wild-card round?

Eli (left) and Peyton Manning (right) added an alternative broadcast to ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” this season.

WINNERS: Eli Manning and Peyton Manning

So now we know: the Manning brothers can throw more than footballs.

They can throw shade, too — at each other.

Eli and Peyton brought a fresh perspective and fun to “Monday Night Football’’ with the alternate telecast on ESPN2. Their blend of humor, next-level analysis and banter with guests such as David Letterman, Tom Brady and Kevin Hart was solid entertainment.

Compelling enough that Amazon is interested in securing the Mannings’ services for Thursday Night Football, according to Front Office Sports. But it’s unlikely ESPN will let the brothers go without a fight considering the ManningCast easily surpassed ratings for all of the network’s other alternate telecasts.

The eight top-rated ManningCasts are ESPN’s eight most-watched alternate telecasts among the 60-plus the network has produced, according to ESPN. Other alternate telecasts, all of which were broadcast on ESPN2, include the Spanish language telecast of “Monday Night Football,” the “College Gameday” crew coverage of the NFL draft and NBA playoff games that have featured analysis from the likes of Adrian Wojnarowski and Jay Bilas.

ESPN says the ManningCasts have averaged 1.6 million viewers. By comparison, the Boca Raton Bowl featuring Western Kentucky and Appalachian State and televised on ESPN drew an audience of about the same size. The Outback Bowl featuring Penn State and Arkansas and televised on ESPN on New Year’s Day attracted an audience of almost four million viewers.

LOSERS: Steve Levy, Louis Riddick and Brian Griese

Levy, Riddick and Griese – ESPN’s broadcast crew for the primary “MNF” telecast — should be sweating.

Whereas Eli and Peyton have created their own telecast brand, Levy, Riddick and Griese continue to rely on the “MNF’’ brand and function like a second-tier NFL quarterback.

Their task: Don’t screw it up.

Generally speaking, that works. Don’t babble and ramble during a great game. But after the ManningCasts, more creativity will be expected from these three.

WINNER: Marshawn Lynch

What, you thought Lynch was going to politely eat Skittles and mind his manners? Turns out the retired NFL running back still has enough speed to stay one step ahead of the people in charge of bleeping out profanity during the ManningCast.

Lynch dropping an f-bomb and using other profanity made his Oct. 25 guest appearance most memorable. Peyton appeared to give Lynch a quick hook, with Lynch suddenly missing from the telecast after the f-bomb. But Marshawn’s “performance” became laugh line throughout the season.

Even Roger Goodell, during his own guest appearance, grinned when referencing Lynch’s potty mouth.

LOSERS: Active NFL players

The ManningCast curse went an undefeated 7-0 this season. Every active player who appeared with Eli and Peyton on the Monday broadcast lost the next week, ending with Aaron Rodgers’ Green Bay Packers falling to the Detroit Lions in Week 18. Will current players test it next season?

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Peyton Manning, Eli star on ESPN’s ManningCast: Winners, losers