Keidel: Big Blue’s Big Dreams Depend On Eli Manning
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By Jason Keidel
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Someday, the Giants will be forced to play a full 60 minutes. When they’re not playing the Vikings, Eagles — in Philadelphia, where they haven’t won since 1970 — or Raiders, Big Blue will need to play bigger than they have during this sleepy streak.
These last three wins have been sliced from the same football-follies reel as their six straight losses. The defining difference, of course, is they are now finding ways to survive them.
And the football gods are grinning on the G-Men again this week, as the Packers limp into town with Bart Starr back at quarterback. On Sunday they tried Seneca Wallace, and then (THE) Scott Tolzein, and are now trying to flirt with Matt Flynn, who has been cut by half the league since the Packers let him go a few years ago.
Sunday has gone from the most serious speed bump in this streak to a rather winnable game. So if we may look forward a week — a rather perilous endeavor with the Giants — they could host the Cowboys with something tangible on the line. The Cowboys played like a Pop Warner team in New Orleans on Sunday night, leaving the Giants just one game back in the loss column of a lost division.
So what can derail the Giants’ Express? Anything, really. Their first play after a bye week was fumbling the kickoff, the ball squirting right into a Raider’s arms. The Giants lost, then saved the game on special teams, though there’s nothing special about anything they’ve done this season, especially on offense.
Speaking of offense, it would help if someone found Eli Manning’s mojo. It’s not a stretch to say he’s been the worst quarterback in the NFC East this year, a division that is hardly a hotbed for signal callers.
Indeed, Manning’s total quarterback rating is 37.5, which is 29th in the NFL. He is ranked behind Ryan Fitzpatrick, EJ Manuel, Mike Glennon, Christian Ponder and Jake Locker. Manning makes more — a lot more — than all the aforementioned quarterbacks combined.
According to NFL.com, Manning’s cap number this year is $20.85 million, the highest in the league. And suffice it to say he’s not earning every penny, unless you like his 11 touchdowns and league-high 16 interceptions.
Former QB and renowned game-film geek Ron Jaworski thinks Manning is suffering from “cabin fever” — his way of saying that Manning has morphed into Jim Everett, he of the famously happy feet. Has Manning taken too many hits this year? Or is this just a yearlong malaise from the one player the Giants can’t afford to have one?
We’re used to a funky few games from Manning. But even if they’re to beat the beleaguered Packers and headless Cowboys, it starts with Manning. In order to return to No. 1, you need a lot more from No. 10.
The NFL has done it all to legislate parity, even if this year it has largely resembled parody. As of Monday, 22 of 32 teams have a reasonable shot at the playoffs. Dynasties are dead, and the outhouse-to-penthouse narrative is quite alive. Just ask Kansas City, 2-14 last year and 9-0 this year. According to ESPN, 70 percent of NFL games this year have been within seven points in the fourth quarter, the most in league history.
If this or any NFL season has taught us, a team can look woeful one month and look like world-beaters the next. In fact, you merely need to hop the Hudson River, where the Giants have been known to turn garbage into gold a few times.
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