NFL Monday Morning Ramblings: Manning Continues to Prove His ELIte Worth

Trevor MedeirosCorrespondent IDecember 12, 2011

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 11:  Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants runs off the field after a 37-34 win against the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on December 11, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

When New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning declared he was one of the elite quarterbacks in the league this past offseason, I pulled a ROFL.  For those of you not down with the Internet acronym lingo, I basically rolled over on my floor laughing at that notion.

Yet once again, Manning proved his bold declaration was nothing to laugh at.  Manning threw for 400 yards, four touchdowns and one interception in leading the Giants to an incredible 37-34 comeback victory over the Dallas Cowboys in Texas.

When the Cowboys took a commanding (or so I thought) 34-22 lead midway through the fourth quarter on Sunday night, I made the mistake of assuming the ‘Boys were on their way to a slightly commanding first-place lead in the tight NFC East race.  Then, Manning took over.

He lit up the Cowboys on Big Blue’s final two drives of the game, first hitting Jake Ballard with a touchdown pass to get New York back within a score.  Manning then effortlessly drove the Giants down the field yet again—even after Mario Manningham dropped a sure touchdown—to set up Brandon Jacobs’ game-winning touchdown run.

Manning’s comeback heroics gave the Giants first place in the NFC East and continued to solidify Manning’s place among the game’s elite quarterbacks.  He’s on the verge of breaking the record for most fourth-quarter touchdown passes in a single season, a record held by Johnny Unitas and Manning’s older brother, Peyton.

I realize Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers is a run-away selection, but I think Manning should garner some serious league MVP consideration, simply for the fact the there’s no way New York would be in control of its own destiny without his services this season.  The Giants’ running game has been virtually non-existent this year, thanks mainly to Ahmad Bradshaw’s inability to stay in the lineup on a weekly basis.  And Tom Coughlin’s defense has suffered a rash of injuries throughout the season.

Nevertheless, Manning has his Giants trending upward, while the Cowboys are clearly on another December dive.  Here’s quite the mind-boggling stat: From 1960 until 2010, the Cowboys blew a total of two games in which they had a lead of at least 12 points in the fourth quarter.  In 2011 alone, they’ve already blown three games of that magnitude. 

On the basis of that stat alone, the Cowboys will likely miss the playoffs, while Jason Garrett may be out as the head coach of America’s Team at season’s end.

Quick slants

Houston, we have a gritty team.  Whatever has been thrown at the Houston Texans this season, they have incredibly overcome. 

You lose your star running back Arian Foster at the beginning of the season?  No problem.  You’re relegated to your third-string, rookie quarterback?  No big deal.  You lose your star defender in Mario Williams for the season?  So what?  You lose your star wide receiver in Andre Johnson for half of the year?  Whatever.

The Texans have overcome all of those obstacles en route to a 10-3 record and the team’s first-ever playoff appearance.  Sunday’s comeback win over the Cincinnati Bengals served as an epitome of Houston’s ability to overcome adversity, as the rookie quarterback T.J. Yates and Houston fought through a 19-10 deficit to win, 20-19.   I know everyone has written off the Texans come playoff time, considering how Yates is now under center.  But given how well the Texans have played the past two weeks against—at the least—decent teams, I’m left to believe that Houston’s grit could propel it to a few playoff victories...

Why is everybody freaking out about Tom Brady’s spat with New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien?  To me, that was just two emotional guys showing their competitive fire on the sidelines.

Nevertheless, I do think Brady was at fault there.  He made the poor decision of throwing to a well-covered Tiquan Underwood in the end zone with the Patriots already in field-goal range late in the fourth quarter.

Still, Brady and incredible tight end Rob Gronkowski continue to serve as New England’s best hope of winning, especially considering how New England’s secondary continues to fail on a weekly basis.

Speaking of Gronkowski, I have to give him the nod over Saints’ tight end Jimmy Graham concerning who’s the best tight end in the game today.  While Graham is awesome in his own right, he lacks the open-field ability to shed tacklers that the man known as “Gronk” in New England possesses.  Even if you want to debate who’s the best individual tight end out there, there’s no doubt the Patriots boast the best tight end duo in Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

The two combined for 245 receiving yards Sunday against Washington and are absolutely lethal after the catch.  Gronk and Hernandez are Bill Belichick’s best draft picks since that time he drafted a scrawny quarterback by the name of Brady a decade ago...

I realize the Atlanta Falcons’ stirring road comeback over the Carolina Panthers was heart-pounding; I just didn’t think it would land the Dirty Birds’ head coach, Mike Smith, in the hospital.  Smith was rushed to a Charlotte hospital after Atlanta’s 31-23 win on Sunday with what was believed to be a heart attack.  Atlanta Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff denied rumors of a Smith heart issue.

Still, I’m hoping for a full recovery from Smith.  On a side note, just when I was ready to say Matt Ryan was not an elite quarterback, he threw for 320 yards and four touchdowns in leading Atlanta over the Panthers.  Although they continue to drive me mad with their inconsistency, I still believe Ryan and company will be a very tough out in the playoffs—especially if rookie Julio Jones builds on his big day against Carolina…

The biggest disappointment of the season has to be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  This team had 10 wins a year ago, but has followed that up with an atrocious 4-9 season and hit rock bottom with a blowout 41-14 loss to the equally pathetic Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.

Bucs coach Raheem Morris and his quarterback, Josh Freeman, need to seriously worry about their job security, because it may be best for Tampa to move on from the two at season’s end…

I’ve run out of superlatives to describe what Tim Tebow is doing for the Denver Broncos.  He has led Denver to six straight wins on the back of another incredible overtime win, this time over the visiting Chicago Bears, 13-10. 

You can look at the latest edition of TebowMania two ways: Either Bears running back Marion Barber single-handedly blew the game for Chicago, or Tebow continues to turn it on in crunch time.  If I’m facing the Broncos from here on out, I’m trying my best to blow the game open through the first three quarters, because if the game’s within reach in the final frame, it’s almost a scary given that Tebow will find a way to win for the Broncos. 

And considering how professional sports are so results-driven these days, I’m purely baffled that people hate on Tebow and the results he has delivered for John Elway, John Fox and Denver in 2011.