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No more debate necessary: Eli Manning is an elite quarterback

January 16, 2012 |  9:53 am

Eli Manning

Eli Manning is the last elite quarterback standing in the NFC. That must be a pretty good feeling for the eight-year veteran -- and not just because his New York Giants are a win away from returning to the Super Bowl.

For much of his career, the discussion around Manning has been whether he should even be included in the elite category -- even after leading the New York Giants to a dramatic Super Bowl victory over the definitely elite Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in 2008.

A lot of that probably had to do with playing in the shadow of his older brother Peyton Manning, the four-time MVP quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts.

But this season might be considered Manning's true breakthrough -- and it has nothing to do with the fact that his brother was sidelined by injury all year. He passed for a career-high 4,933 yards and was one of the main reasons the Giants squeaked into the playoffs with a 9-7 record after beating the Dallas Cowboys in the final game of the regular season for the NFC East title.

He has continued to shine in the playoffs, with 277 yards and three touchdown passes in a 24-2 wild-card win over Atlanta and 330 yards and three touchdowns with one interception in a 37-20 upset of the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers. Incidentally, Green Bay's elite quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, had 264 yards, two touchdowns passes, an interception and a fumble.

Two NFC quarterbacks threw for more yards than Manning this year -- New Orleans' Drew Brees (5,476, an NFL record) and Detroit's Matthew Stafford (5,038) -- and Manning's 29 touchdown passes may pale in comparison to the 40-plus thrown by Rodgers, Brees and Stafford.

But the Giants quarterback is the only one of the bunch with two postseason wins this year. He is also the only one whose season is not over.

It's just further proof that Manning has arrived as an elite NFL quarterback.

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Giants' timing is perfect in 37-20 upset of Packers

Tim Tebow is named Broncos' starting quarterback for 2012

-- Chuck Schilken

Photo: Eli Manning. Credit: Darron Cummings / Associated Press

[For the record: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the New Orleans Saints did not win a playoff game this season.]

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