Let’s be completely honest for a second here; no one thought that Eli Manning and the New York Giants were going to win the Super Bowl last year. They lost in Week 1 to Rex Grossman and the Washington Redskins and were at 6-6 and losers of four straight heading into a Week 14 matchup in Dallas against the Cowboys.
However, this team, led by Manning’s spectacular play, squeaked into the playoffs, dismantled the Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers, tiptoed past the San Francisco 49ers and hoisted the Lombardi Trophy after beating the heavily favored New England Patriots.
No one saw that coming, not even the most die-hard Giants’ fan in the country.
So, who could be this year’s Eli Manning? Which quarterback could propel his team to the playoffs with a late surge, play incredible football throughout the playoffs and enter the conversation as one of the premier quarterbacks in the league?
Here’s a look at three quarterbacks who could be the 2012 version of Eli Manning.
Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
We’ll start with a quarterback in the same division as Manning who has received even more criticism than Manning in Romo.
There is no doubting the amount of talent that the Cowboys have on both sides of the ball, but much like the Giants of last year, they have a tendency to play down to opponents at times. While the majority of the blame always ends up on Romo’s shoulders, the reality is that only a fraction of it should.
If this team can get hot at the end of the season thanks to Romo and his numerous weapons, we could definitely see him holding the Super Bowl MVP trophy come next season.
Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
Few teams have been as up-and-down in recent seasons as the Chargers. They’ll either start the season extremely hot and finish 8-8 or start the season 0-4 and finish 10-6. The play of the entire team seems to line right up with the play of their quarterback, Rivers.
When Rivers is on and focused, there is little doubt that he is a premier quarterback in the NFL. Unfortunately for the Chargers, it seems that Rivers is never as ready as need in the playoffs, as is evident by his 3-4 record since 2006.
However, should Rivers get hot towards the end of the season, and his offense can stay healthy, he could lead the Chargers to their first Super Bowl victory in franchise history.
Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
Cutler has been steadily improving since coming to Chicago before the 2009 season, and he actually had the Bears in playoff contention before breaking his thumb and missing the last six games of the season.
This year Cutler is back and has a familiar weapon to play with in Brandon Marshall. It is the first time he’s had an elite receiver to throw to in Chicago, and my guess is that they’ll be a dangerous combination in the pass-happy NFC North.
The difficulty for Culter will be beating out the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions for a playoff spot. Granted, the AFC North sent three teams to the playoffs last year, but the NFC is deeper this year.
As long as Cutler can keep his interceptions down, he’ll have a great chance to sneak into the playoffs, and with that defense behind him, the Bears could be extremely dangerous come January.