For Giants' second half to be magical, Eli Manning needs to be heroic

John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

Eli Manning needs to play like a Super Bowl MVP for the Giants to get back in the NFC East race during the final eight games.

A lot of things have to go perfectly in the second half of the season for the 2-6 New York Giants if they are going to have any chance of rising from the ashes of their 0-6 start and winning the NFC East.

-- The Giants' NFC East opposition, especially the division-leading Dallas Cowboys, have to keep stumbling around and giving the Giants opportunities to somehow work their way back into the race.

-- The Giants have to win all three of their remaining division games, one against the Cowboys and two against the Washington Redskins.

-- Jason Pierre-Paul and Hakeem Nicks, two stars who have yet to play up to the names on the backs of their jerseys this season, need to make stronger contributions throughout the final eight games.

-- The defense, dominant in recent weeks against Minnesota and Philly, need to show in the coming weeks that is is for real. The back-to-back dominant performances came against quarterback-challenged teams, during the second half of the season the Giants face Robert Griffin III twice, and Tony Romo, Philip Rivers, and Aaron Rodgers once.

-- Andre Brown needs to give them big plays in the running game that they have not had with both him and David Wilson out of the lineup.

Most of all, though, the Giants need Eli Manning to play like the two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback he has been in the past and not the bottom of the barrel interception machine who has some wondering if the Giants should draft a replacement that he has been in 2013.

Manning has not been intercepted in two weeks, but the 15 interceptions he has thrown are still worst in the league. No matter how many are his fault, and some of them are not, they have to stop.

The Giants need Eli Manning to play like the two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback he has been in the past.

Manning's passer rating of 68.4 puts him right in-between Christian Ponder of the Vikings and Brandon Weeden of the Browns. That's not good company.

His 55.7 percent completion rate ties him, unbelievably, with Tom Brady of the New England Patriots for worst completion percentage among the league's starting quarterbacks. It's his worst mark since 2006.

Pro Football Focus says Manning's accuracy percentage, which accounts for dropped passes, throw aways, spiked balls, batted passes, and passes where the quarterback was hit while they threw the ball, is the worst in the league at 66.3 percent.

There have been mitigating factors, of course.

The offensive line was dreadful early on, and even during the past two weeks you see too many instances where Manning is antsy, throwing off his back foot and not trusting his protection.

The running game has been on-existent much of the season. Until Peyton Hillis arrived, Manning's running backs were also not entirely trustworthy in the passing game.

Nicks has not played up to expectations. Rueben Randle and Manning are still working to get on the same page. Ditto with Manning and new tight end Brandon Myers.

Still, Manning has clearly not played well enough. There have been too many bad decisions and too many mis-reads for a quarterback with his pedigree. There have been too many missed throws. There have been too many delay of game penalties and wasted downs where the Giants were simply fortunate to get a snap off.

Manning is better than what we've seen in the past eight games.

He will never be a 70 percent passer -- he's simply not that precise and the Giants' offense is predicated on too many deeper, riskier throws for that to happen.

Manning will never be one of those quarterbacks who puts up a passer rating like the 119.4 his brother, Peyton Manning, currently sports.

He has, however, proven to be a winner. He has proven to be a quarterback who can rise to the big occasion and make the big play when it is needed.

The Giants will need the heroic Manning, not the hair-brained and scatter-armed one we have seen too much of this season, if there is to be any sort of Miracle at MetLife in the second half of the season.

We have seen in the past that he is capable of it. Can he summon that sort of greatness for the next eight games? The Giants' season likely depends on it.

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