Eli Manning showing everyone he's in Brady's class

By Tom Canavan

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 2 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

While that may sound average, Manning has come a long way from the guy who won the Super Bowl MVP with his game-winning touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress in the 17-14 Giants win over New England.

"I have just tried to continue to learn and understand our offense," said Manning, who will be making his 111th consecutive start. "I've been in the same offense since (the Super Bowl). I tried to grow and understand defenses and schemes. We have a lot of players on this offense who weren't in that game, so I have grown with these receivers and players the last three years. That game doesn't come into that much thought this week. (I'm) getting ready for this defense. They are doing different things. I just expect to go in there and play well."

What has been remarkable about this season is that Manning has played well after losing two of his top targets to free agency — wide out Steve Smith (Philadelphia) and tight Kevin Boss (Oakland).

In their place, Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham and the surprising Cruz have stepped up on the outside while Jake Ballard has been a find at tight end.

Domenik Hixon, who suffered his second straight season-ending knee injury, said Manning is reaping the reward of his hard work, noting he is always out on the field working with his receivers, talking to them after practice and preparing for opponents.

"He studies a ton of film," Hixon said. "To me, his football intelligence is probably the best in the league. Like I said it's paying off. He's working all the time, on and off the field. Even on the days that I am here doing physical therapy, he's watching film. To me that's what it takes to be where he is at now."

For Manning, the here and now isn't thinking about Super Bowl XLII. It's getting ready for the Patriots again.

"These games are fun, when you play against good teams," Manning said. "When you think of the Patriots, you always think of a team that is always in the playoff picture, always a talented, well-coached team. These are easy games to get excited for. You just want to go in there and play the style of football we know we can play."

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