By: C.J. Doon
Quick question: Who is the most clutch quarterback in the NFL right now?
Aaron Rodgers? Peyton Manning? Surely, it’s Tom Brady!
Nice try. It’s Eli Manning.
Yes, lovable Eli. The man with two Super Bowl MVP trophies, three consecutive 4,000-yard seasons, and, along with his brother Peyton, proud owner of The Manning Face.
Don’t believe me?
In 2011, Manning led the Giants to seven fourth-quarter comebacks, en route to his second Super Bowl title in five years. Manning threw 15 touchdown passes in the fourth quarter last season, setting an NFL record. During the 2011 playoffs, he marched the Giants down the field for game-winning scores three times, including a 90-yard drive highlighted by Mario Manningham’s catch down the sideline in the Super Bowl vs. New England. Dating back to 2007, Manning has five career game-winning drives in the playoffs, placing him third all-time behind only Tom Brady and John Elway.
This week, the Giants faced off against the young, up-and-coming Tampa Bay Buccaneers at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, and were trailing by as many as 14 points in the third quarter. Manning looked abysmal in the first half, throwing three interceptions, including a pick-six in the final minute of the half, and was booed off the field by the hometown crowd. (You might think that winning TWO OF THE LAST FIVE SUPERBOWLS would give the guy a pass. Fuhgeddaboutit! This is New York!) With the Giants trailing 27-16 early in the fourth quarter, Manning led the team to three straight scores, including a beautiful 80 yard strike to Victor Cruz, giving the Giants a 34-27 lead. Tampa Bay answered with an impressive drive of their own, as Josh Freeman found Mike Williams for a 41-yard touchdown with 1:48 left to play.
That set the stage for Eli and the Giants once again … and once again, he delivered. Manning orchestrated another fourth-quarter comeback, highlighted by an impressive throw, this time to Hakeem Nicks for 50 yards to the Tampa Bay 11-yard line. Two plays later, running back Andre Brown was in the end zone, and the Giants had another come-from-behind victory. Yawn.
At the end of the day, Manning’s stat line looked like something out of a video game: 31-51, 510 yards, and 3 touchdown passes, totaling 32.2 fantasy points. Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks once again proved to be the most dangerous one-two punch in the league, combining for 21 catches, 378 yards, and two touchdowns, good enough for 23.9 and 25.9 points, respectively.
The moral of the story? The Giants’ offense is good, and I mean really good. Think of it this way: When your third-string running back, third-year pro Andre Brown, rushes for 71 yards on 13 carries and scores the game-winning touchdown, you’re probably doing something right.
Now, onto more pressing matters. Without further ado, it’s time for Week 3 “Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em”!
Reggie Bush, RB, Miami Dolphins – The first post-Kardashian success story! It’s remarkable! Bush, who once dated the pop culture super-diva, has finally emerged as one of the top running backs in the NFL. After spending his first five seasons as the back-up running back in New Orleans, Bush has been the spark plug for the Dolphins’ offense as the full-time starter. Through the first two weeks of the season, Bush has amassed 242 yards rushing and two touchdowns, including a 172-yard, two-touchdown performance in Week 2 against the Raiders.
Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis Rams – Anybody who can out-gun Robert Griffin III in a dome deserves a starting spot in any league. Bradford, now in his third full season in the NFL, looks to be on the verge of a breakout. After a pretty good performance in Week 1 against the Lions (198 yards, one touchdown), Bradford exploded against the Redskins, completing 74% of his passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns. On a side note, how about Danny Ammendola? Now the primary receiver in the wake of Brandon Lloyd’s departure, Ammendola caught 15 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown. Ammendola missed most of last season with an injury, but has been productive in the past (85 catches in 2010) when healthy. Look for Bradford and Ammendola to put up big numbers this season in St. Louis.
Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers – With the success of RG3 in Washington, everybody seems to have forgotten about Superman in Carolina. After an incredible rookie campaign, Newton has emerged yet again as one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in the league. He got off to a tough start against the Buccaneers, (2 interceptions, only 4 yards rushing) but rebounded well against the Saints, throwing for 253 yards and one touchdown, and ran for a career-high 71 yards and another score. In the great debate of athletic quarterbacks, Newton deserves the nod over Michael Vick, simply because he limits his turnovers. If you’re looking for consistent numbers from your quarterback, look no further than the former NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears – When Jay Cutler isn’t yelling and shoving his teammates, he’s usually throwing interceptions. The much-maligned quarterback had a terrible game Thursday night against the Packers at Lambeau, completing only 40% of his passes and throwing four interceptions. Cutler has terrific arm strength, and has shown that he has the potential to be one of the best quarterbacks in the league, but lately his play has been dreadful. With the emergence of excellent young quarterbacks in recent years, Cutler is no longer among the NFL’s elite.
Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans – “CJ2K” might need to rethink his nickname. The Titans’ running back delivered yet another head-scratching performance in Week 2, rushing for a laughable 28 yards on ten carries. In Week 1, Johnson only gained 4 rushing yards on 11 carries, bringing his grand total to 32 yards through two games. If those numbers don’t scare you, consider this: In his past 18 games, Johnson has rushed for 100 yards or more only four times. With quality running backs like Mikel LeShoure and Andre Brown available on most waiver wires, I would think about replacing Johnson.
Santonio Holmes, WR, New York Jets – Yes, Holmes did catch a touchdown pass against the Steelers, but it came on the first drive of the game. What happened during the next 50 minutes? A whole lotta nothin’. Holmes was blanketed by Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor most of the game, finishing with 3 catches for 28 yards and one touchdown. Mark Sanchez was brought back down to earth by the hard-hitting Steelers’ defense, completing just 6-of-17 passes in the second half. With the addition of rookie wideout Stephen Hill and the emergence of playmaking receiver Jeremy Kerley, Holmes will see his targets slowly decline as the season progresses. It’s bad news for fantasy owners, and even worse news for the New York Jets.