Hey Eli- Welcome To ‘Mann’-hood
Before getting into my thoughts on Eli Manning, lets recap my NFL picks from this weekend.
Jags over Steelers, final score 20-17
Seahawks over Redskins, final score 24-13
Giants over Bucs, final score 21-10
Chargers over Titans, final score 31-20
and the actual results were…
Jags over Steelers, final score 31-29
Seahawks over Redskins, final score 35-14
Giants over Bucs, final score 24-14
Chargers over Titans, final score 17-6
Thats correct folks. 4 picks, 4 correct choices.
The scores may have been off in a few of my predictions, but all in all I was not really far off with the exception being the points put up in the Charger game, yet I had them winning by 11 points, which they did.
I’ll continue to see if I can impress myself next Friday with the games coming up this weekend, which all contain marquee matchups filled with great story lines.
Gotta love the NFL playoffs.
But onto the boy wonder…
Eli Manning has risen to the elite as far as most discussed athletes on New York talk radio.
Patrick Ewing, Mark Messier and Daryl Strawberry- all before my time- were the names which most frequently clogged up the airwaves, yet since being drafted first overall by the San Diego Chargers and facilitating a draft day trade to the New York football Giants, Eli Manning has been the subject of the rants and roast relentlessly.
There was no shortage of Eli talk heading into the Giants first round playoff match up against the Tampa Bay Bucs.
Eli had been heavily criticized for his inconsistent play and lack of leadership, yet it quickly is forgotten that he has done enough to get his team into post season play 3 years in a row.
However in sports, and even more so in New York, there is and always will be a ‘what-have-you-done-for-me-lately’ mentality as far as the fans here are concerned.
Simply put, getting to the playoffs is nothing to shrug your shoulders at, however the ultimate goal of course is start the following season with jewelry on your finger and a defending champion title before your team is introduced.
And as far as the Giants and Eli are concerned, not only have they fallen short in achieving that goal, but the team has been bounced from the playoffs in each of the last two seasons, including a 23-0 embarrassment at home two years ago which I had a seat at Giants stadium for.
And so the spotlight was shining bright on Eli this afternoon as there was the pressure of two straight playoff disappoints riding on his shoulders.
However unlike the his previous playoff performances, Eli Manning stepped up and played the type of game Giants fans have been longing for since the day he was drafted.
After the offense did nothing for an entire quarter of football, Eli turned it on connected on passes to (well dressed) Amani Toomer, Plaxico Burress and Steve Smith, finishing off a drive with a screen pass to running back Brandon Jacobs for big blue’s first touchdown of the game.
Eli would then lead the offense to 3 other scoring drives, the signature of the 3 being a 16 play drive eating up over 8 minutes of clock which resulted in a touchdown pass to Toomer, essentially wrapping up the Giants first playoff victory since 2000, when they won the NFC Championship game 41-0 over the Minnesota Vikings, a game I also was lucky enough to be at.
The bottom line today was that Eli Manning was in command from start to finish, and aside from the occasional short arm throws which drive any football fan crazy, he was efficient and avoided turning the ball over.
His stats were better than modest, as he was 20-27 for 185 yards and 2 touchdowns.
He withstood the pressure applied from the Bucs defense, and his success can also be credited to a fine job by the Giants makeshift offensive line, working with a backup center and later in the game having to replace a dehydrated David Diehl.
And now the Giants head to Dallas following their first playoff triumph in 7 years, and will be facing America’s team for the third time this season.
While the Giants can enjoy their victory for now, they know they have a lot of work to do in matching up against a team that has handled them in both prior meetings.
And while I’m sure the conversation this week will be as much about stopping the explosive Cowboy offense which the Giants have been unable to do, you better belive that Eli Manning will be an equally hot topic, as he has been for most of his tenure as a New York Giant.
Hopefully he will be able to continue to build upon the success he has had now in two consecutive starts (he played brilliantly against New England last weekend) and lead his team to further glory this season.
For now, today showed at the very least that when he wants to be,
Eli is the right ‘Mann’ for the job.
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