Amazingly enough, we could be looking at a second straight postseason where a Manning is seen as a team’s most glaring weakness.
Last year, Peyton Manning was ranked 28th in ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rating (Total QBR). In three playoff games, he completed just 55.4 percent of his passes. He had two touchdown passes, one interception and two lost fumbles. Since Denver's defense was so good (and Manning wasn’t completely terrible), the Broncos were able to win the Super Bowl.
That’s what the Giants need his brother, Eli, to remember: don’t be terrible. You don’t have to be great, which he hasn’t been, but don’t be the reason your team loses.
The Giants' defense has been stellar, with first team All-Pros Snacks Harrison and Landon Collins, second-team All-Pros Olivier Vernon, Janoris Jenkins and surprisingly, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, despite Eli Apple starting at cornerback. Though Sunday's matchup against Aaron Rodgers and his stable of wideouts will be center stage, Eli Manning will be the player who makes or breaks this game.
Manning never disappears in big games, which can cut both ways. He’s either going to thread throws to Odell Beckham Jr. and the other party-hard receivers who also spent Monday night in Miami, or he’s going to chuck wounded fowls that will be intercepted.
Aaron Rodgers is ranked 4th, while Manning is ranked 27th in QBR. His days of regularly throwing deep passes are long gone. The Giants' offense is largely predicated on hitting Beckham on quick slants and hoping he can take it to the house. That’s not much of a game plan, which explains why Big Blue hasn’t scored more than 20 points on offense in the last five games.
When these two teams faced off in Week 5, Manning was dreadful, completing only 18 of 35 passes for 199 yards. But that was a long time ago. Eddie Lacy is no longer Green Bay's lead back, a role now filled by converted wideout Ty Montgomery.
Meanwhile, the Giants’ two leading rushers in that game were Bobby Rainey (22 yards) and Orleans Darkwa (11 yards). The big dog now is rookie Paul Perkins, who surpassed 100 rushing yards last week and signaled the possibility that New York’s offense might be able to expand beyond Manning on a slant to OBJ.
This game has all the makings of a postseason classic: two storied franchises playing in frigid conditions, led by two quarterbacks who have won three Super Bowls between them. Manning has the upper hand in that category, but Rodgers is the one in this year's MVP discussion.
Manning doesn’t have to be the Giants’ MVP in order for New York to pull off the victory in Green Bay. He just can’t be the Packers’ most valuable player.
Prediction: Giants 19, Packers 14