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It's All On Eli Manning Right Now

Next few weeks will present major test for Giants quarterback

By Josh Alper
|  Tuesday, Nov 23, 2010  |  Updated 12:15 PM EDT
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Anyone who was still clinging to the hope that this year's second half would be different than others in the Tom Coughlin era probably needed a stiff pull from the closest bottle of scotch when Hakeem Nicks's injury was announced on Monday.

The Giants are now down to Mario Manningham and a bunch of untested bodies at wide receiver as they enter the most crucial stretch of their season. Even if he has the name of a '40's movie detective who always gets his man, you don't want your future in the hands of Duke Calhoun. Scary business, unless, of course, you believe in Eli Manning.

This is a big chance for Eli to prove that he's worthy of a spot in the top tier of quarterbacks in the NFL. He looked like he belonged there in 2009, but he's taken a step backward this year. He's alternated between brilliant offensive distributor and a mistake machine that hurts his team's chances of winning games. It's maddening to watch from week to week, but it will all be forgotten if he can step up in the weeks to come.

Sound ridiculous? Not if you look at what his brother has done in Indianapolis or what Tom Brady's done in New England this season. Both men have found ways to thrive with constantly changing supporting casts that don't feature the guys who came into the season as their favorite targets. Lofty company, to be sure, and Eli isn't anywhere close to them, but he doesn't need to be to get the same kinds of results.

He's got a better defense working for him than either of those teams have, a big boost to any effort. Eli needs to be a leader, which isn't a word used to describe him all that often, and he needs to keep his team from losing their nerve in the face of difficult circumstances. In terms of actual play, it's just time to be smart, eliminate mistakes and not waste any opportunities.

Unfortunately, that seems a lot less reasonable than the idea that he could succeed with a depleted receiving corps. 

Every time you think about Manning playing with the increased pressure of the current situation, it is impossible for your mind not to revert back to Sunday night. Eli's brutal forward dive and fumble shows that he still doesn't make the right decisions when everything is going full speed around him.

It's hard to believe he will turn that corner in the next six weeks, although the Giants might not be able to survive with anything less.

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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