NEW YORK (WFAN) — There was a point in 2011 when not even the most die-hard Giants fan would have a predicted a Super Bowl victory.

At least not in public.

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But Big Blue caught fire in the closing weeks and the playoffs, thanks in large part to quarterback Eli Manning. The two-time Super Bowl MVP wants to see that energy channeled over a whole season, especially now that New York has a big target on its back as reigning NFL champions.

“Whatever that was, we got to find that and try to keep that for a full season,” Manning told WFAN’s Boomer & Carton on Monday, “and make sure that we’re playing up to our potential week in and week out. I feel like we’ve still got a lot to prove.”

LISTEN: Manning with Boomer & Carton

(You can download the entire interview HERE.)

The Giants will look to repeat without major players like Mario Manningham and Brandon Jacobs, both now with the San Francisco 49ers. Enter running back David Wilson, the team’s talented — and boy does he know it — first-round pick out of Virginia Tech.

“The thing about David Wilson, he’s the fastest running back we’ve ever had,” Manning said. “This guy is quick, he’s explosive. And that’s kind of exciting. Our running backs over the years have kind of been that powerful, big guy.”

Wilson may have what it takes, but the veteran Manning has proven his worth. The quarterback ignited a hot debate last offseason when he declared himself in the same “elite” class as Tom Brady. He eventually convinced some to concur with one fourth-quarter comeback after another in 2011, not to mention his second Super Bowl win.

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But his critics still came out in droves. Former teammate Kurt Warner “fully” disagreed with the notion of Manning as a future Hall of Famer. The Giants star was later voted No. 31 by his peers in the NFL Network’s “Top 100,” resulting in backlash from Justin Tuck.

Even ex-New York wide receiver Amani Toomer said Manning wasn’t the best quarterback in the NFC East. That honor goes to Dallas Cowboys starter Tony Romo, Toomer said this month on his radio show.

“You really just can’t get caught up (in) it,” said Manning. “If you listen to every show or what every single person says … and you get defensive about it or it makes you upset, you’re gonna have some problems.”

Manning said he gave Toomer — still his good pal — a dose of his own medicine. All in good fun, of course.

“You gotta laugh about it,” he said. “I saw Toomer not too long ago. I just walked up to him and I said, ‘You know what? I thought Ike Hilliard and those (guys) were probably better Giants receivers than you were.’ ”

As for Hakeem Nicks, the wide receiver told Manning he was “feeling good and getting better” after surgery on his broken right foot. Manning is eager to see Nicks at training camp this week in Albany, and hopes the target will be on the field for Week 1 of the regular season.

“He’s always been a fast healer, he always has the right mindset,” Manning said. “It’ll be great to have him most of training camp and most importantly have him for the start of the season.”

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What’s your prediction for the Giants in 2012? Be heard in the comments below!