If the Giants navigate the next nine games well enough to make the playoffs, there's a good chance that Eli Manning will be a contender for the MVP award.
If they beat the Patriots on Sunday, we might not even need to wait that long to push his name to the top of the list. Manning, who has carried the Giants to a 5-2 record, will have his stiffest test to date, even with the Patriots defense scaring people about as much as a newborn kitten.
It looks like the Giants are going to be without three starters on offense Sunday as another round of injuries have left the team searching for people to step up and perform at a high level. Everyone found out about Ahmad Bradshaw's broken foot on Thursday and he's listed as doubtful on the Friday injury report with center David Baas and wide receiver Hakeem Nicks.
It's hard to say which of the injuries most threatens the Giants, but we're going to go with Nicks. His presence in the offense gives Manning a reliable target and it also opens up wide swaths of the field for Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham to attack the defense.
The Patriots secondary hasn't covered anybody all that well this season, but eliminating Nicks will make their job much easier this weekend because they won't have to allocate extra resources to his area of the field. Manningham has never been a precise enough route runner to be a consistent number one and Cruz, for all his charms, is still treated as a third option most weeks so we don't know how he'll do when facing the teeth of the defense.
Baas and Bradshaw will hurt the team's ability to establish the running game that's been mostly invisible this season. The fact that the run game has been so poor makes these injuries a bit less damaging simply because, at the end of the day, the Giants offense lives and dies with Manning.
It will hurt their balance, though, and that's significant because of the need to keep the Patriots offense off the field as much as possible. If the defense is forced to spend half the game or more trying to keep Tom Brady out of the end zone, the Giants' chances of winning are going to drop considerably.
Should Jason Pierre-Paul, listed as questionable with a concussion suffered in practice on Thursday, not be able to answer the bell, those chances will drop even more. The pass rush is to the defense what Manning is to the offense and no one is rushing the passer better right now than Pierre-Paul.
The Pats were going to be a tall order at full strength. It looks like it will be an even more difficult now, which is probably not the way the team wanted to kick off the stretch that will determine their fate this season.