Two weeks ago, Eli Manning threw four touchdown passes and the Giants scored 52 points in a victory against New Orleans. Last Sunday, his most glaring statistic was two interceptions and the Giants were shutout in Atlanta.
While the performances have been uneven, Manning's emotions have stayed on their usual consistently steady line. He doesn't get too animated when he excels, nor too dejected when he plays below his expectations. That won't change this week, though the Giants' season could be on the line when they visit the Baltimore Ravens Sunday. The Giants almost certainly need to win to keep their postseason hopes alive.
"Whether you've played your best game or your worst game, each week you go in confident," Manning said today. "You know you have the ability and you know you can make plays. Even from last week, you can draw from the good plays, you can draw on the good drives that you had. We didn't make the big plays in the game. This week, hopefully it's different. Hopefully, we'll be ready and go out there to make those plays."
The Giants are 8-6, which is actually one game better than they were last season after 14 games. After losing to Washington in Week 15 of 2011, they won their last six games – two in the regular season, four in the playoffs – to win their second championship in five seasons.
Manning was the catalyst as he shattered the team record for passing yards and threw 29 touchdowns passes. But his numbers have dipped this season. After 14 games a year ago, he had 4,362 passing yards, 25 touchdown passes and had thrown 15 interceptions. This season, he has 3,590 passing yards, 20 touchdown passes and has thrown 15 picks.
At his news conference today, Tom Coughlin did not want to compare this year's Manning with the 2011 version.
"Let's wait until it's over and done with and then we'll talk about that," Coughlin said. "No question two weeks ago, what we were able to accomplish as a team. Last week, not so well. Eli would be the first one to comment on that and he doesn't need me to say that. We're hoping that everyone plays better and with more consistency. We thought that was a big theme last week and, of course, it wasn't accomplished. So, we're striving for that again."
If Manning is feeling pressure to perform well in Baltimore he's hiding it well, as he always does. He has kept the same routine and exudes the same low-key confidence he always does.
"I think every game, you go in wanting to play well," Manning said. "As the quarterback, you have the ball in your hands on every play. You've got to make good decisions, you've got to convert on third downs, and you've got to throw the ball well, get completions. When we get in the red zone, make good decisions, have good plays and get good production. So, a lot of the things are going to be what I can do, what our teammates can do, it all comes around to everyone doing their own responsibility. Everybody's got to play well and do their job. All you can do is understand the game plan, understand what my responsibilities are, what my reads are and go out and make them."
Manning, of course, has a history of excelling late in the season. He is, after all, a two-time Super Bowl Most Valuable Player. When the Giants were in a winner-take-all game with Dallas in Week 17 last year, he threw for 346 yards and three touchdowns without an interception in a 31-14 victory.
The Giants might need him to play similarly well on Sunday.
"You hope the best comes out and it's just a matter of, hopefully, just playing well," Manning said. "Hoping that the team understands the circumstances and everybody's just having a great attitude, being confident, but being relaxed. Just ready to enjoy this opportunity, enjoy a chance to play in big games, enjoy a chance to extend our season and we know exactly what's ahead of us, what's at stake and we need to go out there and play our best football. Hopefully, we'll get that."