By Sean Hartnett
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This week, I read an article by Rich Hoffman of the Philadelphia Daily News asking Eagles fans: “Which Eli Manning will show up on Sunday?”
It was a fair question to ask in years past. In 2012, it’s clear that there’s only one Eli Manning — the architect of fourth quarter comebacks and the leader of men who elevates the performances of those around him.
Philly fans will quickly point to the fact that Manning has lost 7 of his last 8 meetings against the Eagles, but Manning has a 5-2 career record at Lincoln Financial Field. In his last visit to “The Linc,” Manning completed 69.6% of his passes and threw four touchdowns.
Last season’s 29-16 victory in Philadelphia was also the setting for Victor Cruz’s breakthrough performance. Manning hooked up with Cruz for three deep completions for 110 yards and two touchdowns.
Hakeem Nicks isn’t traveling to Philadelphia due to a swollen knee, so the Eagles’ secondary will be focused on shutting down Cruz.
This could play into Manning’s hands. He’s fresh off a performance where he picked apart the Carolina Panthers with ease and connected with Ramses Barden for 9 receptions and 138 yards.
It’s unclear whether Barden or Domenik Hixon will get the bulk of playing time in Nicks’ absence. Hixon is recovering from a concussion, but has been given the green light by the Giants’ medical staff. He’s listed as probable for Week 4.
Manning has a knack for getting the most out of unheralded receivers thrown into the spotlight. That was the case for Cruz last season in Philadelphia and could be a similar scenario for Hixon and Barden on Sunday night.
We’ve already seen ample evidence of Manning turning former Dallas Cowboys’ castaway tight end Martellus Bennett into a playmaker. Bennett is the fifth among tight ends in receiving yards and has a touchdown reception in every game thus far in 2012.
Meetings between the Giants and Eagles tend to come down to late dramatics. There’s a sense that this game will come down to whoever has the ball last — the situation where Eli thrives like no other quarterback in the NFL.
Manning has led the Giants to 26 career game-winning drives. In Week 2, Manning carried the Giants’ offense on his back by throwing for 243 fourth quarter yards and pulled off a dramatic comeback over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Eli has become the unquestioned master of the two-minute offense. His coolness in the fourth quarter will be the reason why the Giants will leave Philadelphia with the W.
Will Manning lead the Giants to an inspirational victory in Philly? Share your predictions below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.