The New York Giants QB seems to have emerged from shadow of injured big brother Peyton, writes Mike Tierney.
Eli mans up for the Giants
It must have been a mixed blessing to grow up as Eli Manning.
He hails from a family of means; his father, Archie, played 14 seasons at quarterback and later became a successful businessman. Eli had every resource imaginable to follow in Dad's footsteps.
But, no matter what he accomplished, comparisons were inevitable to older brother Peyton, who will enter the Hall of Fame the instant he becomes eligible.
Winning the Super Bowl in 2008 somewhat upgraded Eli's status. His string of 112 consecutive starts, the fourth-longest by a quarterback, is applause-worthy. But he was still the little brother.
Finally, the masses are taking notice of him. In his eighth season, the younger Manning has elevated the injury-ravaged New York Giants to a two-game lead in the NFC East. He has entered the discussion of 2011 MVP.
It is no coincidence that Eli has emerged from Peyton's shadow in the same year that Peyton and his shadow are out of sight. Big brother has spent the season on the sidelines in Indianapolis while recuperating from neck surgery.
In New York, some of Eli's teammates are issuing a stock response on whether he belongs with Peyton among the league's elite quarterbacks. You cannot spell "elite", they say, without e-l-i.
"His confidence is through the roof right now," Michael Clayton, the receiver, said. "I've played with a lot of quarterbacks in my career, more than 11, and how he reads coverages is the best of anybody I've seen."
Manning's breakthrough was a last-gasp rally against the Patriots a week ago.
The back story: Eli drew some flak in the summer for saying he considers himself in Tom Brady's class. At New England, after Brady was Brady-like on an apparent game-winning touchdown pass with 1:27 left, Manning trumped him by driving the Giants 80 yards in 1:21, completing six of eight passes. It was the fifth fourth-quarter comeback he has engineered this season. "There is so much he does that he doesn't get credit for," teammate David Diehl said. "He doesn't get the recognition he deserves."
Eli has achieved the league's fifth-highest passer rating with Domenik Hixon, the team's best receiver, on injured reserve. The wideouts Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham have missed games; so has the primary tailback Ahmad Bradshaw.
With the Colts eyeing Andrew Luck, the college standout, as their possible quarterback, who would have thought the Manning most certain to start next season is Eli?
Today’s feature games
• Steelers at Bengals Almost a match-up of teams on five-game winning streaks, but Pittsburgh lost in the final moments to the Baltimore Ravens. Steelers wield more dynamic offence; Bengals getting by with tepid ground game, rookie QB Andy Dalton.
• Saints at Falcons Long-timerivalry worth watching with both teams on upswing. Winners have inside track to NFC South title. Indoor setting suits New Orleans and QB Drew Brees. Four of Falcons’ past six home losses were to Saints.
• Giants at 49ers Division leaders butt heads. New York try to decode a remade 49ers, who keep ball on ground and have stingiest rush defence. Cautious play-calling has limited interceptions by QB Alex Smith, below, to two.
• Patriots at Jets New England seek to avoid first three-game loss streak in nine years against team unbeaten at home. Pats made Albert Haynesworth the fall guy of shaky defence by releasing him. QB Tom Brady looking mortal.
Today’s other games
• Lions at Bears
• Jaguars at Colts
• Broncos at Chiefs
• Titans at Panthers
• Texans at Buccaneers
• Redskins at Dolphins
• Rams at Browns
• Bills at Cowboys
• Cardinals at Eagles
• Ravens at Seahawks
• Vikings at Packers
Stat of the week
Run-minded Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow had nearly identical rushing and passing statistics last Sunday. He gained 117 yards on 12 runs and 124 yards on 10 completions.