As long as Eli Manning is healthy the New York Giants have a chance. Entering his 13th season, and despite all the worldwide attention Odell Beckham garners, Manning remains the most important Giant.
Despite all of the gnashing of teeth over the spotty preseason play of Ryan Nassib, the reasons for bringing in third quarterback Josh Johnson, the long look at practice squad QB Logan Thomas, the attempted waiver claim of Zach Mettenberger, a central fact remains. If anyone other than Manning is playing quarterback for the Giants for a significant period of time, the Giants are going nowhere.
Yes, it’s a team game. Yes, the Giants need their defense to be better than it was a year ago — and it should be. Yes, they need better offensive line play than we’ve seen in the preseason. Yes, they need to figure out if there is a tight end on the roster — or anywhere — who might be able to help them by throwing a block once in a while.
Ultimately, though, the season rests on the health, right arm and decision-making of the 35-year-old Manning, entering his 13th NFL season.
Look around the NFC East and you don’t see a dominant team. You see two teams who will be starting rookie quarterbacks, the Dallas Cowboys with Dak Prescott and the Philadelphia Eagles with Carson Wentz. You see Kirk Cousins, with one year as a starting quarterback, leading the Washington Redskins.
Then you see the Giants with Manning, a two-time Super Bowl MVP who has played or well or better than he ever has the past two seasons. Some analysts whisper that Manning might be losing a touch off his fastball. I don’t see it, nor do I really think it matter at this point if it’s true. Manning is more efficient than he has ever been, which is exactly what he needs to be in the Giants’ quick-throw passing attack. His passer ratings of 92.1 and 93.6 the past two seasons are the first back-to-back 90+ marks of his career.
Including playoffs, Manning has started 194 consecutive games. As long as that streak continues there is a good chance the Giants can end their four-year playoff drought. If we’re watching Nassib, Johnson or anyone else play extended amounts of important football for the Giants this season that streak could easily reach five.