The New York Giants fully and appropriately believe in two-time Super Bowl champion, ironman veteran Eli Manning.
When a man wins a championship in New York for any of the major sports teams, he becomes part of a special fraternity. The passion simply runs deeper here than just about anywhere else.
Years later, hometown heroes are welcomed back and celebrated all over the tri-state area. But when a man is the quarterback of the New York Giants who’s orchestrated two ginormous Super Bowl upsets while outgunning Tom Brady and earning two Super Bowl MVPs, well, that man’s street cred is just about infinite.
Eli Manning has slain the dragon not once but twice for the second most storied franchise in New York sports history. But coming off a terrible 2017 and entering this season at age 37, there are some hints of uncertainty bubbling under the surface around just how much Eli has left. After all, getting benched for Geno Smith is enough to dishearten the mightiest of warriors.
The Giants are seven years removed from their last championship and have made just one playoff appearance since, a 38-13 Wild Card drubbing by the Green Bay Packers in January 2017.
Giants’ management issued a solid confidence vote in Eli when they bypassed stud QBs Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen with the number two pick in the 2018 draft and selected Penn State RB Saquon Barkley. The message to the fans last year was not Eli’s fault. We’re surrounding him with more talent and better coaching and going for it in 2018. The message to Eli was quite simple: we still believe in you.
From a genetic standpoint, big brother Peyton enjoyed his best season ever at age 37. He threw for 5,477 yards and 55 TDs in 2013, leading the Denver Broncos to the Super Bowl. He followed that with another great season at age 38 with 4,727 passing yards and 39 TDs. While Eli has never been as prolific as Peyton, like his older brother did in Denver, he has the weapons in place to put up big numbers.
First-round pick Barkley has been drawing raves in camp not only for his power running but his pass catching abilities. Along with WR Odell Beckham Jr and TE Evan Engram, the Giants have perhaps the most talented and explosive trio of offensive stars in the game. This should certainly be enough firepower to vastly improve on last season’s finishes at 31st in total offensive points, 23rd in passer rating and 28th in rushing TDs.
New head coach Pat Shurmur and offensive coordinator Mike Shula have both been around the block and had success over their careers. Both have reputations as QB gurus and should be trusted to install the best game plan for Eli and the Giants to succeed.
The offensive line, which has been maligned over the last couple of seasons, should be improved as well with the additions of veterans Nate Solder (Tackle), Patrick Omameh (Guard) and drafting of Will Hernandez (Guard).
On the defensive side, the Giants should be better if someone other than Olivier Vernon can pressure opposing QBs. Switching to a 3-4 alignment, the Giants look to leverage their stout defensive line, led by run stopping behemoth Damon “Snacks” Harrison, and a solid secondary looking to rebound from a 2017 letdown.
The NFC East as always should be a dogfight. The Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles will try and repeat, which has only been done once over the last 20 years (2004/2005 Patriots) while the Cowboys should be better with a full season from Ezekiel Elliott. The Redskins, with newly acquired QB Alex Smith at the helm, are viewed by many as no better than a .500 team.
But if last year’s Super Bowl victory by an Eagles team picked to finish third in the NFC East by many experts says anything it says any decent team can win the Super Bowl in today’s parity-laden NFL. Any team with a capable or, in the Eagles case, hot quarterback that is.
Eli Manning is still more than capable. With a chip on his shoulder, a new coaching staff and more talent around him, he should be primed for a big season.