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Why Eli Manning has to start Sunday against the Redskins

It might be a dilemma about how much New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning should play on Sunday afternoon in the regular-season finale against the Washington Redskins. The Giants have already ended a five-year playoff drought and are locked into the No. 5 seed in the NFC. They're playing for little more than pride and whatever momentum can be gained in one rather meaningless game for a team that has already won eight of its last 10 contests.

What won't even be a debate is that Manning should start Sunday afternoon in Landover. Even if it's for one play, coach Ben McAdoo has to put his starting quarterback behind center to continue his streak. It will be Manning's 199th consecutive regular-season start.

Since Nov. 21, 2004, no quarterback other than Manning has started a game for the Giants. It's the third-longest streak in NFL history, and only Brett Favre (297) and Peyton Manning (227) have done better.

It's also perhaps Eli Manning's most impressive professional accomplishment aside from the two Super Bowl wins and two Super Bowl MVPs. The other three NFC East teams have started 34 different quarterbacks during that time.

Manning, 35, insists his streak won't factor into whether McAdoo elects to play some of the Giants' most valuable players on Sunday in a game that has no playoff implications for them.

"No, it doesn't play in," Manning said. "I'm going to do whatever Coach McAdoo thinks is best for the team, best for me, best for us going forward, and that won't play a factor."

It's typical Manning, self-deprecating as always. He will put the team first and not complain.

Everyone else would do that for him if, for some reason, McAdoo puts an end to the impressive streak.

McAdoo has to understand the relevance of this streak. He was in Green Bay when Favre blew away the field and set the record for consecutive starts. McAdoo was also there when it ended.

Manning isn't naive. He's aware of its importance, having talked about what it means on multiple occasions over the past few years.

Favre put it into perspective during an interview with Sirius XM last month:

"All the other records [I set], good or bad, the ones that have fallen and the ones that still stand, would not be possible if not for playing and playing consistently week in and week out," Favre said. "I take a tremendous amount of pride in being there every week and being accountable and leading my team. And I'm sure Eli and any other player would say the same thing."

Through the good and the bad, the Giants know they can count on Manning. He's out there for every snap, every game. His best ability is reliability.

That's not going to end in Week 17 of his 13th professional season when he's healthy and capable.

If the Giants did start backup Josh Johnson, it would be of cultural significance. Johnson would be the first black quarterback to start a game for the storied franchise.

The Giants would be the last of the 32 current franchises to have a black quarterback start a game.

But this is unlikely to be the week for that. Manning wants his 199th consecutive start to happen. He doesn't want to see the Giants starters rested for the playoffs, at least for the entirety of Sunday's game.

"My take is to play. I think to go in there, play well and try to find a good rhythm offensively going against a team in the division, a team you know well and they know us, I think that's the mindset," Manning said. "Until I'm told differently, that's how I'm taking it."

The debate will rage throughout the week: Should they rest or play?

Even if the answer is rest, Manning should still start. The streak must go on.