NFC East Top 20: No. 2 Eli Manning

In the final 20 days before the start of the regular season, we are counting down the top 20 players in the NFC East. For a full explanation, see this post. And if you want to read any of the other posts that have run since we started this series, you can find them all here, in this link.

No. 2 -- Eli Manning, New York Giants QB

(Last year: No. 1)

No, Manning did not have his best year in 2012. He'd be the first to admit it wasn't his best work, and that's one of the reasons the Giants didn't get back to the playoffs and why he surrenders the top spot on this list to the player he barely edged out for it a year ago.

However, while Manning was the third-best quarterback in his division last year, he's still the one with two Super Bowl MVP awards and the one you'd almost certainly pick to start one must-win game for you if you were choosing among NFC East quarterbacks. A down year for Manning still meant 3,948 yards and 26 touchdown passes, and he actually threw one less interception than he did in the 2011 regular season. He is still one of the best quarterbacks in the league, and based on his pre-2012 numbers there's little reason to think he won't be back well over 4,000 yards and a 60 percent completion rate in 2013.

Numbers aren't the whole Manning story, of course. He's a proven winner. He's an unquestioned, experienced and venerated leader in his own locker room. He leads weekly meetings with his receiving corps -- film sessions in which, the receivers say, Manning is the only one who talks and they all just listen and soak it all in. He is as vital to the success of his offense as Robert Griffin III is to his, he's just not as new or exciting. Manning hasn't missed a game since his rookie season, and his reliable, steadying presence is the biggest reason the Giants enter every season certain they can contend for a playoff spot. They may not always make it, but when they do, Manning makes them a threat to cash in with a Super Bowl title. If you judge quarterbacks on winning and championships, it's easy to see why Manning ranks this high on this list.

The rest of the rankings:

3. Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys

4. Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins

5. LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

6. Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, Giants

7. Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys

8. Alfred Morris, RB, Redskins

9. Victor Cruz, WR, Giants

10. Jason Witten, TE, Cowboys

11. Jason Peters, OT, Eagles

12. Sean Lee, LB, Cowboys

13. Trent Williams, OT, Redskins

14. Evan Mathis, OG, Eagles

15. Hakeem Nicks, WR, Giants

16. DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles

17. Anthony Spencer, DE, Cowboys

18. London Fletcher, LB, Redskins

19. Brian Orakpo, LB, Redskins

20. Jason Hatcher, DL, Cowboys