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Half Full or Half Empty: Eli Manning Through Three Games

Checking in with the quarterback after three up-and-down games

By Josh Alper
|  Thursday, Sep 30, 2010  |  Updated 9:20 AM EDT
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Half Full or Half Empty: Eli Manning Through 3 Games

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There has been a lot of talk about what's wrong with the Giants so far this season and everyone's own personal list of how those flaws stack up is a little bit different.

Some people rank the atrocious special teams as more damaging than the lack of leadership while others believe that the entire season is lost because of a subpar offensive line that has lost one of its only reliable players in Shaun O'Hara. All valid viewpoints and we're only scratching the surface, but it is interesting how rarely Eli Manning's name comes up in the conversation.

That's not to suggest Eli should be blamed for everything that's gone wrong in the first three games, but it is curious because it is hard for quarterbacks to avoid gaining undeserved blame or credit for their team's fortunes. It's particularly difficult for quarterbacks to avoid blame when they've turned the ball over eight times in the first three games of the season. That's what Manning has done thus far and it's easy to use that as a way to say he's taken a step backward this season. 

The problem with stats, though, is that they don't always tell the whole story. Of Eli's six interceptions, only one can be totally on his shoulders. That one was a doozy, the left handed toss in the end zone against the Titans was a panicky mess, but the other five have all come after his receivers touched the ball and failed to reel it in. With friends like that, Manning doesn't need any enemies ripping him for turning the ball over because he doesn't deserve all the blame for the picks. 

Alas, they don't give partial credit for interceptions and Manning probably deserves some extra demerits for some of his throws that haven't resulted in picks. In all three games, Manning has had moments where he's uncorked some awful throws that make you wonder if he's retained the gains he made during the 2009 season. He's forced balls into coverage, overthrown receivers and laid some balls out too high and left his receivers at risk of getting hurt. In the case of Kevin Boss, that actually happened and it really hurt the Giants against the Colts. 

That doesn't overshadow some of the beautiful throws he's made in the first three weeks. He's found receivers in stride, put balls where only his guys could catch them and he didn't even get credit for what might have been his best toss of the season. That would be the 43-yard strike to Mario Manningham from the end zone on Sunday that was stricken from the record as a result of Ahmad Bradshaw's safety-causing chop block. By any statistical measure, Eli is firmly in the upper tier of NFL quarterbacks and has done more positive than negative thus far. 

Will that continue? There's one stat that makes you wonder if Eli is going to be able to avoid picking up criticism much longer. Manning has posted a passer rating of 9.6 when he's under pressure this season. Given the state of the Giants line, he figures to be facing a pretty constant stream of pressure the rest of the way. If he doesn't improve in those situations it is hard to see him getting a pass because, fair or not, people expect to see their quarterback thrive under pressure rather than succumb to it.

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. You can follow him on Twitter.

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