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Eli Manning hailed as hero ahead of Super Bowl

01.24.12 at 11:10 am ET
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Eli Manning tossed a pair of fourth-quarter TD passes in Sunday's win over the Patriots. (AP)

Eli Manning has earned the media's admiration ahead of the Super Bowl. (AP)

Although the Super Bowl is still 12 days away, some writers have already decided that Eli Manning is the greatest quarterback currently playing in the NFL. According to the numbers, Manning does not quite top the list. He finished the regular season 13th in completion percentage (61.0), fourth in total yards (4,933), fifth in yards-per-game (308.3), and sixth in touchdown passes (29), but those numbers did not tell the whole story for some New York-based columnists.

Steve Serby of the New York Post limited his praise of Manning to “The Greatest Quarterback in Giants History”. Serby compared Manning to former Giants quarterback Phil Simms, who Serby said deserves recognition for his leadership, toughness, longevity and his play in Super Bowl XXI. But Manning, now in his eighth pro season, has surpassed Simms in Serby’s book. He compares Manning and Simms’ numbers, and Manning is indeed better than Simms in almost every category.

But then Serby delves into the rhetoric and intangibles. Manning, Serby said, did not have to overcome the pressures of just being a first-overall draft pick. He is also had to fight his way out of the shadow of his father and brother, two of the most famous and revered NFL quarterbacks in history. Manning has never missed a game since taking over the starting job in November of 2004, Serby says. Manning’s devotion to film study is commendable and his leadership style is one that his teammates never hesitate to follow. For those reasons, Serby claims, Manning leaves the New York area confident headed into the Super Bowl.

“It was Peyton [Manning], remember, who predicted after Super Bowl XLII that Eli would win multiple Super Bowls,” Serby said. “He will be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy for the second time if he beats Tom Brady and the Pats again. And there isn’t a Giants fan who doesn’t think he can’t do it.”

Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News takes Serby’s praise a step farther. Lupica names Manning as the quarterback “playing better than anybody going into this Super Bowl.” Lupica acknowledges that Brady has the better numbers this year than Manning, but says Manning is better when it counts as he points to Manning’s NFL-record 15 fourth quarter touchdown passes as a stat that separates the two quarterbacks.

Lupica also argues that Manning’s path to the Super Bowl was tougher than Brady’s, since Manning had to beat the Packers and 49ers on the road while Brady only had to go through the Broncos and Ravens on home turf.

“Nobody better than him right now, not Brady or anybody else,” Lupica claims. ESPN New York’s Ian O’Connor takes the Manning debate in a different direction, as he examines Eli’s growth in contrast to brother Peyton’s demise. He points out the irony of what it would be like for Eli to capture his second Super Bowl win in Indianapolis, his brother’s home. O’Connor also postulates that should Peyton become a free agent, he may not want to go to the Jets, a rumored destination, since “family protocol or no family protocol, this is Eli’s town now, and he has no intention of giving it up.”

Sports Illustrated is the place to be for any film geek looking for game analysis. The writers there are spending all week breaking down film to name their five key matchups for the Super Bowl. Tuesday’s featured player is Vince Wilfork, who sacked Joe Flacco once in the AFC championship but had a greater impact on the game than the stats may show. The Sports Illustrated writers demonstrate through screenshots of game film how Wilfork’s presence continuously pressured Flacco and the Ravens’ offense and overpowered the Baltimore offensive line all game.

The folks at Sports Illustrated then break down the Giants game film to see how their offensive line fared against pressure from the 49ers and notes that in order to neutralize Wilfork, the Giants will be forced to double-team him.

As the inevitable comparisons to and nostalgia from 2007 pour out through the media, Fox Sports senior NFL writer Alex Marvez examines the differences between this year’s Super Bowl squads and the 2007 versions. Marvez notes that the Giants and Patriots combined return just 19 players from the 106 that appeared in Super Bowl XLII. Furthermore, the Giants are missing Plaxico Burress and David Tyree, who were heroes in the aftermath of the Giants’ 2007 victory. Wilfork is the only returning defensive starter for the Patriots.

Marvez also notes that the two offenses are oriented differently now. Manning is now a veritable star instead of an emerging player, and New York uses the running game more as a compliment than as the basis of its offense. The Patriots boast a tight end-driven offense powered by Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez rather than a superstar-led attack fueled by the Randy Moss-Tom Brady connection.

While Marvez dives into comparisons against the past, colleague John Czarnecki returns to present comparisons in a column explaining which team has the edge. His vote goes to the Giants due to the Giants’ strength on the road and Tom Coughlin‘s growth as a coach, but the clincher for Czarnecki is the media-revered Manning.

“Right now, the Giants are playing as well as the Ravens on defense, and Baltimore forced three turnovers on Sunday,” Czarnecki writes. “But what the Ravens don’t have is Eli Manning and his cast of play-makers. Joe Flacco is OK, but he’s no Eli.”

Read More: Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Super Bowl XLVI, Tom Brady Print  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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