Eli Manning

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Keidel: Week 1 Brings Chance For Giants To Shock Cowboys, Rest Of NFL

Jason Keidel
September 06, 2019 - 1:34 pm
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There's no dearth of drama whenever the Giants play the Cowboys. 

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Dallas gets so much love, ink and TV time that you'd never know they have gone nearly 25 years sans a Super Bowl appearance. You know the particulars, where and when they play on Sunday. But it's the small fires under each team's tent that make this season so gripping. The Cowboys just ended a summer-long saga by signing Ezekiel Elliott, the talented and troubled running back who is undeniably the engine of their offense. 

The Giants don't lack theater, either. Indeed, the G-Men are playing this year under the twin-burdens of survival in a cutthroat league, and somehow making their most celebrated player feel needed. 

No matter your take on the Giants' prospects this season, you can see that they are inching away from Eli Manning, and toward Daniel Jones. 

Sure, John Mara said he hopes Jones doesn't play a snap. Dave Gettleman can declare that Eli has up to three years left in his beleaguered arm. But teams don't draft a QB with the No. 6 pick just to sit him. The days of the gifted but raw rookie idling on the sideline, or clutching a clipboard, have largely gone the way of the fullback. Patrick Mahomes sat for a year because Alex Smith was still wildly productive. Most teams don't have that luxury. 

So, is Eli still good enough to keep the wolves in their place? Or will he be saved, or booted, based on the team's record? 

There are few cool ways to leave the NFL. For every John Elway, who literally left with a Lombardi Trophy under his arm, there are scores of old quarterbacks who are benched for the young gun. The team belches the bromides, gives you a solemn ovation, then leaves you behind. Eli's brother was able to ride Denver's defense to the Super Bowl, but his skills had decayed so severely that Brock Osweiler almost stole his job. 

The Giants don't have the stalwart defense, or offense, to shield Eli from hits or meat-hook realities of a full NFL season. It's not news that Big Blue has purged most of its defense, replacing it with rookies and variables. Nor is it news that their Pro Bowl wideout now resides in Ohio. 

Then consider how the Giants have massaged Jones's preseason into a demo reel for a starting QB job. All the slow-mo videos of Jones tossing perfect spirals into the summer sky, gently dropping on a glistening wideout in full sprint. No balls are wobbly, or dropped, or ever intercepted. So far Jones looks like he was built by a mad football scientist in some clandestine lab near NFL Films. 

The Giants learned from Geno Smith, the last person who replaced Eli Manning for a game. It was so awkward and awful that it brought the entire franchise to its knees. So, if they were going to do this again they would build their case through promotion and public relations, give the fans a few billboards of Jones as Big Blue's future. Let the fans call for Jones rather than a ham-handed benching of the best QB in team history. 

If Eli is going to save his job, beating Dallas would be the best way to do it. Manning has had some of his best moments against the Cowboys, in Dallas, including the playoffs. Not only is Dallas in their division, but they are the Cowboys, with the star on the helmet and the nauseating wind of publicity behind them. 

Plus, the Cowboys have a real team this time, good enough to lead pundits to predict big things in Big D. Jerry Jones made a monster splash this offseason not only by bagging Zeke, but also for making it rain on his core players, from La'el Collins to Jaylon Smith to DeMarcus Lawrence. 

There's a reason the Cowboys are a touchdown favorite over the Giants. 

So, the Giants can mute the cynics in 60 minutes. Maybe the Cowboys aren't so good at handling success, but the Giants have been known to surprise a few people when counted out. And no one has surprised more cynics than Eli Manning. If he's the only QB to beat the Patriots twice in the Super Bowl, then maybe he has enough to topple the Cowboys. 

Follow Jason on Twitter: @JasonKeidel