ATLANTA (AP) - Matt Ryan did his best not to rile up Peyton Manning.
No need to give No. 18 any bulletin-board material.
"I think he was drafted when I was in ...," Ryan said, catching himself. "I don't want to make him sound TOO old."
For the record, Ryan was in seventh grade when Manning was the top overall pick in 1998. Now, two elite quarterbacks from different football generations will be on the same field, facing off in a most intriguing Monday night matchup.
There's Ryan, on the cusp of establishing himself as one of the best at his position for the Atlanta Falcons (1-0). There's Manning, his legacy secure but still with something to prove as he jump-starts his career for the Denver Broncos (1-0).
"I remember watching him at Tennessee. Unbelievably talented," Ryan said. "Then when he got into the NFL, he was carving people up and has been doing it for a long time. It's fun to play against the very best, and he's obviously one of the best quarterbacks of all time."
After four neck surgeries wiped out his final season with the Indianapolis Colts, Manning signed with the Broncos intent on showing he wasn't washed up at age 36.