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Oh, brother: Another Manning to deal with

By Greg A. Bedard
Globe Staff / November 2, 2011

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The Giants come to town for a matchup Sunday and are armed with exactly what the Patriots’ ailing defense doesn’t need to see: a red-hot quarterback.

With older brother Peyton Manning on the sidelines this season with a neck injury, Eli Manning of the Giants has assumed control.

Manning, 30, just concluded a month of October in which he passed for at least 321 yards in three of four games - and in the other he threw for 292 in a victory over the Bills.

So far this season, Manning has completed a career-high 64.7 percent of his passes and he owns a passer rating of 102.1; he has never completed a season over 93.1. He has 13 touchdown passes against five interceptions. Manning is also averaging 8.8 yards per attempt, nearly a full yard more than his previous high (7.9 in 2009).

“I would say he is controlled,’’ said Giants coach Tom Coughlin. “He is obviously very aware of situations and circumstances. He has been very accurate.

“The poise and confidence, the accuracy and the knowledge with all the studying that he does, the way that he performs, is by knowing the opponent. He does a real good job with that and he has a lot of responsibility and he does a very good job with that.’’

This might be Manning’s best stretch since the end of the ’07 season, which ended with a Super Bowl victory over the Patriots.

“He has put together a very, very nice string,’’ Coughlin said. “I think from the second week on, his rating has been from the mid-high 90s and beyond. He is playing very well and we expect that to remain that way.’’

A look at the Giants’ other positions:

Running back: Ahmad Bradshaw leads the Giants with 630 total yards, including 440 on 111 carries (4.0 average). He may be small (5 feet 10 inches, 214 pounds) but he’s quick and is excellent at blitz pickup, which enables him to stay on the field. The Giants have been disappointing on the ground overall. Their 85.6-yard per-game average ranks 30th in the league.

Receivers: The top three receivers - Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, and Victor Cruz - are playing very well right now. Nicks, who is nursing an injured hamstring, leads the team with 38 receptions and 575 yards. Cruz, a UMass product, has emerged this season and leads the team with four receiving touchdowns. Manningham has 16 catches in his past three games. Jake Ballard has replaced the departed Kevin Boss seamlessly.

Offensive line: The Giants have an excellent left side of the line with tackle Williams Beatty and guard David Diehl. The rest of the unit - center David Baas, right guard Chris Snee, and right tackle Kareem McKenzie - have had their struggles.

Defensive line: The Patriots will have their hands full with one of the strongest units in the league. The Giants lead the league with 26 sacks, with Jason Pierre-Paul (eight), Osi Umenyiora (six), and Justin Tuck (three) leading the way for the line. Chris Canty, Rocky Benard, Linval Joseph, and Dave Tollefson make this is a very deep group.

Linebackers: Boston College product Mathias Kiwanuka (four sacks) may be playing the best football of his career. Michael Boley has played well on the weak side, and Greg Jones mans the middle. The Giants have struggled against the run (28th at 130.1 yards per game). Opponents have rushed for at least 145 yards in each of the past five games.

Secondary: Kenny Phillips has developed into a solid strong safety, but teams like to target Antrel Rolle, the free safety. Aaron Ross (three interceptions) is probably the best cover corner, while Corey Webster (three interceptions) is decent on the other side. The Giants lost nickel back Justin Tyron for the season this week. It’s possible rookie Prince Amukamara could get the call, but he’s been dealing with a foot injury. Corey Webster has drawn the toughest assignments and has done a solid job; Brandon Marshall of the Dolphins had only four catches for 55 yards. Webster’s three interceptions have come in the past two games.

Special teams: Kicker Lawrence Tynes has made six straight field goals under 50 yards since missing his first chance of the season. He has missed his only chance over 50. Tynes is average on kickoffs. Punter Steve Weatherford (46.4-yard average) has been excellent since signing from the Jets. Ross averages 8.3 yards on punt returns with a long of 18. Devin Thomas is decent on kickoff returns with a 25.3-yard average (long of 40).

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