ESPN New York rates Eli No. 1

Eli Manning’s 2012 may be ending badly, but he kicked off the year in elite fashion.

Manning led the Giants to four straight wins en route to his second Super Bowl title and second Super Bowl MVP trophy, putting an end to any lingering questions about where he ranks among the greats of the game. That's why ESPNNewYork.com picked him as the best-loved New York sports figure of the year.

(Five Giants made our Top 10. Click here to view the list, and here to rank 'em yourself.)

Manning's unforgettable year included a guest-host stint on “Saturday Night Live” as well.

His 2012 opened with a bang on New Year’s Day as the Giants clinched the NFC East by beating Dallas, 31-14, at home. The quarterback threw for 346 yards and three touchdowns to clinch a playoff berth.

He threw for three more touchdowns in a 24-2 wild-card blowout over the Falcons at home.

Manning then outshined Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay with 330 yards and three touchdowns -- including a Hail Mary to Hakeem Nicks at the end of the first half -- to lead the Giants to the NFC title game.

It was in San Francisco where Manning delivered the toughest performance of his career. The Giants' franchise quarterback was officially hit 12 times -- but it probably was closer to 20 -- and sacked six times but he kept getting back up.

He completed 32 of 58 passes for 316 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions against the vaunted Niners defense and delivered a beautiful 17-yard touchdown strike to Mario Manningham on a third-and-15 to put the Giants up 17-14 in the fourth quarter.

The Giants went on to win in overtime and advance to their second Super Bowl in five years. And for the second time in his career, Manning topped New England's Tom Brady in the Super Bowl.

Manning threw for 296 yards and engineered yet another fourth-quarter Super Bowl-winning drive. Down 17-14, Manning took over at his own 12 with 3:46 remaining and hit Manningham on a spectacular 38-yard throw toward the left sideline that will be remembered as one of the all-time Super Bowl highlights. His throw was on the money as Manningham not only made a terrific catch between defenders but managed to keep both of his feet in on the sideline.

Manning completed five-of-six passes on the nine-play drive that culminated with Ahmad Bradshaw falling into the end zone to give the Giants the Super Bowl, 21-17.

The Giants' 2012 playoff hopes may be hanging by a thread. But no matter what happens on Sunday, he's still the people’s champ.