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Eli Manning: Elite? Forget That, How About Mid-Season MVP?

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Eli Manning of the New York Giants runs off the field after defeating the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium on October 30, 2011 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Eli Manning of the New York Giants runs off the field after defeating the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium on October 30, 2011 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
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There really is no adequate measuring stick for how well New York Giants' quarterback Eli Manning played Sunday in a 20-17 victory over the Miami Dolphins.

  • The raw numbers, 31-for-45 for 349 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions tell you it was a big day.
  • The 106.6 passer rating is a pretty good indication of a great game, but still not adequate.
  • The 75.3 QBR, sixth-best in the league on Sunday, is way off the mark.
  • Whatever (+) value Pro Football Focus puts on the performance won't tell the story, either.

Thing is, you had to watch the game from beginning to end to understand how good Manning was on Sunday. This was the fourth time this season that Manning has led the Giants to fourth-quarter come-from-behind victories, and the truth is he pulled off this one without a whole lot of help.

The Giants simply cannot run the football with any consistency, meaning their offense comes down to whatever Manning can conjure up with his right arm and his talented receiving corps. Thing is, the receivers let him down Sunday, too. There were five drops, at least four of them heading for huge gains. Each one of those dropped passes, incidentally, was perfectly thrown.

To my eyes, Manning played about as well on Sunday -- especially in the second half -- as a quarterback can play. So, the question. When does Manning's name begin to surface in conversations about the Most Valuable Player? Without getting carried away, let's at least say he should be in the discussion for mid-season MVP.

Let's look at some more numbers.

  • Manning has a career-best 102.1 passer rating, third in the league behind Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. He has six straight games with a passer rating above 90.
  • He is on pace to throw for 4,861 yards -- easily a career high.
  • The four fourth-quarter comeback victories make it 18 come-from-behind wins engineered by Manning in his career.
  • He has thrown just five interceptions -- none in his last two games.

Of course, Manning and the Giants will be judged by what happens over the difficult road of the next nine games -- beginning Sunday in New England in a matchup with Brady and the Patriots. Clark Judge of CBS Sports espoused that 'wait and see' attitude about Manning and the Giants in his Monday column.

Given past history that is a justifiable stance to take. We have seen both Eli and the Giants start fast and fade at the finish too many times. We know that with the schedule the Giants face the next nine weeks, and the wildly inconsistent way they are playing -- especially on defense -- that type of finish is again a possibility.

Thing is, the first seven games of the season should give Giants fans confidence that their team's quarterback is more ready than ever for the challenge that lies ahead.