For the first time in three years, the Giants are going back to the playoffs.

Eli Manning had one of the best games of his career on Sunday: 24 of 33 with 346 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions. By quarterback rating, it was the fourth-best game of his career. Considering the implications of the game, it isn’t a stretch to say that this was his finest regular season game as a Giant.

The receiving core had a lot to do with it too – Victor Cruz has established himself as one of the better receivers in the league, including a huge 74-yard touchdown catch that gave the Giants the lead in the first quarter.

Eli’s finest season comes in what was easily the most prolific passing season in NFL history. Not only were there amazing individual performances – Drew Brees broke the all-time passing yards record and Aaron Rodgers had probably the best season ever for a quarterback – but the league as a whole played at an unprecedented level. Here’s how 2011 compared to some other recent seasons:

Passing attempts:

2011: 17,411
2010: 17,269
2009: 17,033
2008: 16,526
2007: 17,045

Average passing yards per game:

2011: 229.7
2010: 221.6
2009: 218.6
2008: 211.3
2007: 214.3

League QB Rating:

2011: 82.5
2010: 82.2
2009: 81.2
2008: 81.5
2007: 80.9

4,000 yard passers

2011: 10
2010: 5
2009: 10
2008: 6
2007: 7

This is just the last five seasons – the trend toward passing has risen for the better part of 30 years. Guys in the seventies and eighties rarely threw for 3,000 yards – this year, TWENTY guys did. Matthew Stafford threw for 5,000 yards and 41 touchdowns and didn’t make the pro bowl.

But as great as the league passing was this year, my favorite storyline was easily the Tim Tebow saga Рwhich is ironic I guess since everyone talks about how bad of a passer he is. Joe Posnanski said it best a few weeks ago РTebowmania is something that is new, unexpected, and incalculable. His five fourth-quarter comebacks this year were the stuff of legend (and were also helped by some incredible kicking by Matt Prater and an absolutely dominant defense).

In any event, I will be travelling down to New Orleans next weekend (more on that later). I just hope there is a TV around so I can watch the Giants and the Falcons. Thankfully the Saints have a bye week.


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