Thanksgiving Hopes Rest on Eli Manning

Manning leads a brkoen team into Denver

By Josh Alper
|  Thursday, Nov 26, 2009  |  Updated 3:57 PM EDT
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Thanksgiving Hopes Rest on Eli Manning

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Way back in September, we wrote that the 2009 Giants season would be a test of Eli Manning's worth as a leader and franchise quarterback. We believed it then and it's even more true now that Manning's team has disintegrated bit by bit around him. If the Giants make the playoffs, it will be on Manning's back because the team has little else going for it other than their quarterback. 

The latest domino to fall is Ahmad Bradshaw. The running back sprained his left ankle, which meant that the protective boot he was wearing to protect a broken bone on his right foot has moved over to the other side. As you're surely aware, feet are fairly important to the success of a running back and, as such, Bradshaw's not playing against the Broncos on Thanksgiving night

That leaves the running game to Brandon Jacobs and Danny Ware, a career backup who gets talked about a lot more than he actually performs in games. With a steadily deteriorating offensive line, the names don't even matter that much. The Giants have spent the season proving that they can't run the ball well enough to rely on the ground game to produce points.

Eli will have to keep producing those points because the defense probably isn't going to suddenly figure out how to stop allowing them in bundles. If anything, they're regressing as the season moves along and the short week means that the coaching staff won't have a chance to implement any schematic changes that make better use of the personnel.

That's a bad mix for a team as desperate as the Broncos will be on Thursday. Their 6-0 start looks even more fraudulent as the five straight Giants wins that began the year, and their playoff chances will be dead if they can't stop the bleeding against the Giants. Kitchen sinks will be thrown and the Giants defense isn't particularly adept at catching them. 

All of which leads us back to Eli. He showed last week that he can keep his head while all those around him are losing theirs, and he'll need an encore performance in another game the Giants have to have. The pieces are all in place for him to do it, especially with tight end Kevin Boss emerging as a serious threat in recent weeks. More importantly, the kid who always seemed to hope that the spotlight fell on anyone else looks like he's finally comfortable with all eyes on him. 

That's good, because they aren't going to be anywhere else for the rest of the season. 

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.

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