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Analyzing Eli's improvement

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Peter King of wrote an interesting piece the other day detailing his theories for Eli Manning's resurgence during the playoffs.

Let's look at King's theories. I'll add some thoughts of my own, as well.

1. Plaxico Burress is practicing, and his chemistry with Manning is better than ever.

I believe this very strongly. Burress is the big play-maker in the Giants' passing attack, and there were plenty of times during the season you could see these two were a little off. Plenty of times Burress couldn't quite get open, or couldn't quite get to the spot where Manning thought he would be. Now that Burress -- torn ankle ligament and all -- is practicing, you see the results on the field. More creativity, and sharper passes.

2. Steve Smith has become the reliable third receiver the Giants have never been able to develop in Sinorice Moss.

King puts it this way: In the last four games, Smith has 12 catches for 131 yards. That's nine fewer than Moss in his 13 regular-season games. Clearly, Manning enters the Super Bowl with the best three-wideout combo he's had in his career.

He is right here, as well. Remember the great cact Smith made on the late first-half touchdown drive against Dallas?

What King didn't mention, though, is that not only has Smith replaced Moss -- he has also taken a lot of the underneath stuff and given Manning the third option Jeremy Shockey would have been.

3. Big games aren't big for Manning.

Eli's steady, quiet demeanor has often been taken to mean he couldn't lead this team. He has shown otherwise in the playoffs, and has been completely unflappable. He has simply done whatever has needed to be done.

4. He looks like he's asserting himself more with the coaches and in the locker room.

I'm not sure about asserting himself with the coaches, but I know he has the respect of his teammates.

Tiki Barber leaving allowed Manning to grow into the leadership role. I'm not sure, but maybe Shockey's injury also took away a problem for Eli.

A couple of other thoughts here, as well.

The Giants' play-calling with offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride has been better in recent weeks than I can remember. The Giants seem to have finally established what kind of team they want to be, using the run, play action and the shorter, quicker passes extensively. I think that simplifies the game for Manning a bit.

Plus, maybe we have all been hasty to write him off. He will probably never put up the numbers of his brother Peyton, but he doesn't have to.

In these playoffs alone, he has shot down Jeff Garcia, Tony Romo and Brett Favre. Whether he adds Brady to that list or not, I think we know now that the quarterback position appears to be in good hands for the foreseeable future.