It's Friday, so Ernie P. is in the house

Time for my weekly Q&A with long-time New York Giants beat writer and current fellow blogger Ernie Palladino. As always, we are answering the same set of questions. You will find my answers over at Ernie's Giants Beat.

1. If Eli Manning does play against Oakland, how effective will he be on that injured right heel?
Ernie's Answer: "As tough as Eli has shown in the past, having an injured heel is an entirely different situation than, say, a shoulder. Most people think a passer's strength comes from his arm. But in reality, those deep throws are a function of a solid base to throw off of. Without that, the passes either float or lose distance. So unless an anti-inflammatory injection indeed relieves the pain enough for him to move unfettered, expect a shortening up of the game plan to accommodate the injury. Also, the offensive line will have to hold their blocks a lot longer since he won't be able to move around in the pocket very well. Still, having Manning in there at 75 percent efficiency is, to me, still better than the alternative in David Carr. I think if the running game can get going and Steve Smith can get open in the middle zones, Manning can still have an effective passing game. You just won't see as many long shots as you've seen in previous games."
2. With Michael Boley sidelined for approximately four weeks following Tuesday's arthoscopic knee surgery, is Chase Blackburn or Bryan Kehl the best option to replace him at weakside linebacker?
Ernie's Answer: "Thanks to Kehl's broken finger, which he has had repaired surgically, Blackburn will be starting. That's not a bad thing because the kid's got a great motor and he can get into the backfield. Though he's not the great cover linebacker around, you have to love his intensity. But Kehl's status bears watching. He was in the process of driving the trainers crazy, trying to convince them that a mere two screws surgically implanted in a left index finger is no reason to miss a game or two. If his argument is successful, I wouldn't be adverse to seeing him at WLB for a couple of series. He's earned the time with his special teams play, having gotten the special teams game ball two games in a row now. He proved he can be around the ball with his fumble recovery of the opening kickoff, and his recovery of the on-side kick that opened the second half showed he has good hands. On top of that, he, too, has had experience at WSL, having started two games there after original starter Gerris Wilkinson went down injured. And like he said this week, "I've got another hand." I think there's a good possibility that he'll be active, despite predictions that he'll miss two games.
3. With a quarter of the season gone, what is your assessment of the Giants. Are they truly an elite team, or can't we tell because they've been beating up on inferior competiton?
Ernie's Answer: "Oh, I think we can tell. The phrase "beating up" is key here because, in past seasons, the Giants would often play down to the level of their competition. In fact, had this recent road stretch against two of the NFL's have-nots come, say, two years ago, the Giants might have dropped one, if not two of those contests. Remember the life-and-death game against a bad Bears' team in Chicago in 2007, where only a circus catch by Amani Toomer in the end zone won it? Or the last-minute goal line stand in FedEx Field that same year that saved their season against a decidedly mediocre Redskins squad. Those occurrences aren't happening this year. They're blowing bad teams out now, which is the hallmark of an elite team. You expect them to go down to the wire in Dallas. But the easy victories over Tampa and KC show the real strength of this team. Now, a lot depends on the health of Eli Manning, but if they can get through the Oakland game and then head to the Superdome for even a tight, hard-fought loss to the Saints, the Giants must be considered a legitimate power. I already consider them one. A few more injuries, though, and you might see this power sink to also-ran status quickly."
4. Now that the Giants are sticking with Lawrence Tynes, how long can Tom Coughlin put up with him missing makeable field goals?
Ernie's Answer: "Not long, apparently. Although Matt Bryant was not deemed an answer in his tryout Tuesday, it was obvious that Coughlin has just about had enough. Perhaps the tryouts were simply a way of sending a message to Tynes that he'd better get himself straightened out quickly. But the fact is, Tynes still hasn't cost the Giants a game with his misses. As annoying as those misses are, Tynes still leads NFL kickers with 41 points. And let's face it, the only kick he missed when it was still a game was the one in Dallas as the Giants led 20-17. His miss in Tampa came at 14-0, and the one against KC came at 20-3. Annoying, yes. But not a big deal. Had last year's robot, John Carney, hit the market this week, it might have been a different story. But until he comes free from New Orleans, I wouldn't expect any panic moves from Coughlin. Another miss, though, and that might change."
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