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Giants' Eli Manning delivers like the franchise quarterback that he is

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Giants close out a game, not out of playoff hunt (1:20)

Jon Gruden and Mike Tirico break down the Giants' 31-24 win over the Dolphins and evaluate their playoff chances. (1:20)

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- This is not a great New York Giants team. We all know that by now. But due to the odd circumstances of the 2015 NFC East, it is a Giants team that still has a chance to make the playoffs. If the Giants are to cash in that chance, they're going to need Eli Manning to play like the franchise quarterback they're paying him $21 million a year to be.

Monday night, he did just that.

In a game the Giants had to win to keep pace in the NFC East race, Manning completed 27 of 31 passes for 337 yards and four touchdowns. He hooked up with Odell Beckham Jr. deep when he had to, and he was sharp and in rhythm in the short passing game all night. This time, the Giants held their fourth-quarter lead and got out the game with a 31-24 victory over the Dolphins. Their season continues to be, as coach Tom Coughlin would say, "relevant."

What it means: The Giants continue to have life. At 6-7, they remain tied for first place in the NFC East with Washington and Philadelphia with three games to play. They play unbeaten Carolina next week, then head to Minnesota in Week 16 before wrapping it up with a home game against the Eagles. Definitely not an easy schedule, but winning this game meant they can still make the playoffs if they can swing a couple of upsets. Also, as the NFL announced earlier in the day, the Giants' victory Monday means their Week 16 game in Minnesota will be a prime-time Sunday night game starting at 8:30 p.m. ET.

What were they thinking? Yes, they were backed up in their own end zone after the Dolphins killed Matt Darr's punt at the 3-yard line in the fourth quarter. And yes, they were up seven points and it made sense to try to run out some clock. But with Manning so locked in all night and the Dolphins' secondary unable to cover Beckham, why not take a deep shot or two there to try to move the ball up the field. The Giants ran it into the line twice, threw short and incomplete on third down, then punted it back to Miami with 5 minutes, 50 seconds to go.

One reason to get excited: The fourth-quarter pass rush didn't get home, but the Giants did a good job of making Ryan Tannehill move his feet and alter throws at the critical time of the game. After playing left defensive end all of last week and for the first three quarters Monday, Jason Pierre-Paul moved back to right defensive end in the fourth quarter and played with his bandaged right hand on the ground.

One reason to panic: The tackling continues to be a major issue, and it's where the personnel deficiencies on defense show up the most. The Giants got away with it Monday against a Dolphins team that couldn't stop them, either, but the three teams remaining on their schedule will require a more effective tackling effort.

Fantasy watch: Broken record alert. Beckham had another monster fantasy game, with seven catches for 166 yards and two touchdowns, including an 84-yarder. It's his sixth straight game with more than 100 receiving yards, and he has eight touchdowns in those six games.

Ouch: Defensive tackle Markus Kuhn left the game in the third quarter with a knee injury and didn't return. Guards John Jerry and Justin Pugh both left in the second quarter with burners but did return. Beckham missed the first drive of the second half while getting IV fluids in the locker room before returning. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was in and out of the game with various undisclosed ailments. Linebacker J.T. Thomas suffered an ankle injury in the third quarter. Defensive end George Selvie left in the fourth quarter and was evaluated for a concussion. Left tackle Ereck Flowers, who sprained his ankle last Sunday against the Jets, left in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury.