The New York Giants never had a chance to make a comeback against the Atlanta Falcons on the road last Sunday. The simple, and usually comforting reality surrounding this team is that it will live and die by the right arm of quarterback Eli Manning. When Manning is on, there are very few teams around the league that can beat the Giants. However, when Eli plays like he did last Sunday, the Giants are incapable of overcoming Eli's blunders.
Unfortunately, this season has proven that the two-time Super Bowl MVP is far from the invincible gunslinger that many have made him out to be.
Eli Manning has flaws in his game. His decision making can be questionable, as he frequently attempts to squeeze throws through mind-numbingly tight windows. Sometimes he completes them and he looks like the second-coming of Joe Montana, while other times he appears to be dumfounded at his inability to complete passes. Manning is an incredible talent with the ability to put the team on his shoulders and win football games, but he hasn't done that as of late.
Part of the issue is that teams have figured out how to defend the Giants franchise player. Manning performs at an incredibly high level while throwing over the middle of the field, and struggles while throwing to the sidelines. In fact, Manning has thrown 9 of his 15 interceptions this season while throwing to the sidelines, while completing just 54 percent of those passes. In particular, Manning has a quarterback rating of 28.2 while throwing to the left sideline.
If the play is not open over the middle of the field, there's a good chance Eli Manning is not going to make anything productive occur.
It would be understandable if Manning was struggling behind an inconsistent offensive line , or without a consistent rushing attack. However, both of those aspects of Big Blue's offense have improved this season.
Manning has been pressured on just 28.6 percent of his dropbacks, which is down from 39.1 percent last season.The Giants offensive line has given up the least amount of sacks in the NFL this season. The rushing attack has gone from producing just 89 yards per game in 2011 to 115 yards this season.
The Giants offense is more dynamic, yet Manning's play has dropped off significantly. Although he was touted as one of the NFL's top-five quarterbacks this offseason, Manning is currently ranked 9th in quarterback ratings. The Giants need him to be elite in order for the team to have a chance to make the postseason.
“I’ve got to play at a high level,” Manning said. “I’ve got to make the plays that are there.”
The Giants have their backs against the wall this weekend. They still control their playoff destiny. All they have to do is win two football games against some struggling football teams. We can talk all we want about the defense, or about the rushing attack, but the Giants season will rest on the play of Eli Manning. Manning is the unquestionable leader of this football team, and his ability to orchestrate big plays down the field will inevitably determine the Giants' fate in 2012.
This is usually when Eli steps up and plays his best. When people are writing articles detailing his shortcomings, he comes out the next few games and puts on championsip-caliber performances. It remains to be seen if this season will fall in line with the recent history behind this franchise. The play of Eli Manning will be the most impactful factor in determining if the Giants can salvage their 2012 campaign and return to Super Bowl glory.
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