EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- There was a group of 20-30 New York Giants fans huddled in the corner of Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum last week making their desires known. They were serenading Eli Manning with chants of "Eli Manning" and "That's my quarterback" during warmups. It was enough to attract the attention of Manning and his teammates.
Multiply that scene by at least 1,500. That is what it will be like Sunday at MetLife Stadium with Manning reinstalled as the Giants' starting quarterback against the Dallas Cowboys.
"It will be nuts for him on Sunday," said offensive lineman Justin Pugh, once of the longest-tenured Giants in his fifth year with the team. "I'm excited for him. They're going to go crazy. The 100 or 1,000 or so [total Giants fans] that were in Oakland went nuts and if that is a microcosm of what the whole stadium is going to be like, it's going to be crazy. They're coming out in droves for Eli."
Any doubt of the support Manning has of the metropolitan area can be found driving on the New Jersey Turnpike or Garden State Parkway. There are billboards scattered throughout that read "Believe," with the letters "ELI" in red while the rest of the lettering is in white.
Manning lost his starting job for a week -- much to the dismay of fans and former teammates -- but got it back after coach Ben McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese were fired. Interim coach Steve Spagnuolo (with some nudging from ownership) reinstated Manning as the starter earlier this week.
"Everyone is going to cheer like crazy," said Mike Damico, who plans on attending Sunday with his wife. "It's going to be loud and I assume there are going to be more [Giants] fans going now."
Instead of a circus-like atmosphere against the Cowboys there is now expected to be a celebratory mood amidst a game between the 2-10 Giants and Cowboys, even if Manning's future with the team is in limbo.
"I definitely think it's going to be a crazy atmosphere," said Olivia Schmidt, 21, who plans to attend the game. "Fans are going to be really happy to at least see that if this is the end of Eli -- at least the right thing to do is to have him start while they're home, because that is what he deserves and what us fans deserve."
In a way, it's almost as if this will be Manning's going-away party or sendoff, even if it's not his last game as the starter. The Giants play at home again next week against the Philadelphia Eagles and on Dec. 31 when they host the Washington Redskins in their season finale.
The reasons for the uncertainty is they had expressed a desire to take a look at rookie third-round pick Davis Webb before this season ends. Co-owner John Mara said he didn't want it to be late-game snaps, because that wouldn't provide any sort of real evaluation.
Of course that was all before McAdoo was fired and before Manning was reinstalled as the quarterback.
Sunday would have had a much different feel if the Giants hadn't made the changes. There would have been a fan revolt of sorts if Geno Smith was the quarterback and McAdoo the coach this Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Even a group of former players was contemplating attending in No. 10 Manning jerseys.
That likely played heavily in the decision for changes, and will create a much different atmosphere.
"Every person in that stadium on Sunday that is not a Dallas fan -- and even some Dallas fans -- are going to have Eli Manning 10 jerseys on," said Joe Ruback, a Giants superfan known as License Plate Guy.
Ruback considers himself one of the top Manning supports in the world. He has 12 Manning jerseys along with countless others of Giants legends. He never wears the same jersey two weeks in a row, until now. He plans to wear a jersey that depicts Manning walking into the Hall of Fame for the rest of this season to celebrate the two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback.
"I do believe it's a going-away party because if Eli plays and plays well, I still think you're going to see Davis Webb the last couple home games. This is literally Eli Manning's going away party because you have to see what Webb has going into the draft. This is the game," Ruback said. "This is his going away party. And when I mean going away, do I want to see Eli Manning in another jersey, heck no.
"He's born to be a New York Giant, but he still has a fire and will play. But we don't know if he's going to be a Giant next year. A quarterback might enter the mix."
That is the dilemma here. The Giants are destined to have a Top 5 pick in next year's draft. They have an aging quarterback who already has been marginalized.
Fans attending the game Sunday seem to understand the situation.
"I definitely think there is going to be some sort of fan appreciation, extra cheer when he's coming out," said Paul Harris, a longtime Giants fan who plans to attend the Cowboys game. "When I think of the quarterback position and the future of it, [Manning is] 36 and turning 37 in January. What probably upset me the most about the whole thing ... is the way ownership handled it after the fact."
That's another layer to the situation. Some fans have insisted they are so upset with how the Manning situation and this season have unfolded that they won't be attending Sunday or the rest of the this season.
For one Sunday at least, most of that disgust will be put aside. Instead, the attention will be on No. 10. It will be an Eli Manning lovefest.
"I'm just happy to have him back as the starter," Damico said. "I want him to stay with the Giants. I don't want him to leave."
That sentiment will be shared by at least 30,000 others.