Giants' season on Manning's shoulders

When Eli Manning isn't busy studying or preparing for his weekly opponent, the New York Giants quarterback will sometimes take a peek at what's going on around the NFL and watch highlights.

But whenever the focus turns toward the Giants, Manning grabs the remote.

"Just mute it a lot," Manning said. "I've gotten to the point now when I watch football, if I watch a bye week or night game, I usually mute the television. It is just more enjoyable for me. I kind of like to watch and make my own opinions. And it makes me more mad when a guy is saying something and he is totally wrong."

It's probably a good thing Manning didn't have the volume on much last year, because he probably didn't want to hear all the analysts talk about his 25 interceptions.

"When they talk about the Giants and our game, I listen to our coaches and watch the film for myself to form my own opinion," Manning said.

The most important opinion on the Giants' roster belongs to Manning. If the Giants are going to snap a two-year playoff drought, Manning must not only lift his own game up, but he has to be the one to make everything work on offense.

After orchestrating the offense with Shaun O'Hara at center for seven years, Manning had little time to get his new center (David Baas) up to speed this offseason. He has a new left tackle (Will Beatty) protecting his back, and he no longer has two of his most trusted security blankets in Steve Smith and Kevin Boss.

In their season-opening 28-14 loss in Washington, the Giants were a mess at times. They converted on just 1 of 10 third downs. They abandoned the run after halftime, rushing just seven times for a total of 12 yards in the second half. There was a delay of game in the fourth quarter that made coach Tom Coughlin go crazy.

The search for a third wide receiver continues. And the offensive line seemed out of sync at times, surrendering four sacks and failing to carve out a yard on a fourth-and-1 and a third-and-1 in the second half.

Manning doesn't need to hear a highly paid commentator tell him the Giants have a lot of work to do on offense.

"We got to figure out what our identity is going to be," Manning said.

That identity needs to be forged by Manning. During the preseason, Manning did the right thing and displayed confidence when he said he believes he's an elite quarterback, on the same level as Tom Brady.

While he won't throw for 517 yards and four touchdowns like Brady did Monday night against Miami, Manning does need to lift the offense above everything that seems to be slowing it down this year.

In a year when offseason training was wiped out by the lockout and free agency came together in furious fashion, it is understandable that the Giants are experiencing some growing pains, with a lot of personnel changes.

So while Manning has to study the Rams and former Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's defense, he also has to figure out his own offense this week, as well as figure out how to get out of these third-and-long ruts.

"I got great confidence in our guys, I think we can be a great offense and score a lot of points," he said.

In many ways, this season could give us an indication of just how good Manning really is. He already has a Super Bowl ring, and has passed for more than 4,000 yards the past two years. But he is coming off a turnover-prone season, so he is eager to prove that he is not a 25-interception quarterback.

He will have to find a new third wide receiver, a new tight end and synchronize a revamped offensive line, and still find a way to beat the likes of Michael Vick, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tony Romo and Brady this season.

"I don't feel any more pressure," Manning said of having to make everything click. "I go out there and try to do my job and get the receivers, the offensive line, as prepared as possible."

This might be one of Manning's most challenging seasons as a pro, and he's already off to an 0-1 start. And it's a good bet that he had his television muted whenever the Giants appeared on his screen the past couple of days.

"I take the losses hard," he said. "They are not fun. It is disappointing and you look hard to see what you can do differently to get the win. But you can't get worried or lose some confidence in yourself or your teammates, because it is just going to continue."

"We have firepower, guys who can make big plays," Manning added. "Overall, everybody needs to play a little bit better. If that happens we got a shot."