(Sports Network) – New York’s rise to the top of the NFC East pack has been made possible by excellent play under center from Eli Manning (1778 passing yards, 11 TD, 5 INT), as the renowned quarterback has put together the best beginning to a season in his often up-and-down eight-year career. The former No. 1 overall pick’s 9.07 yards per attempt trails only Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady for tops in the league and he’s drastically cut down on turnovers following a difficult 25-interception campaign in 2010. Wide receivers Hakeem Nicks (32 receptions, 508 yards, 3 TD) and Mario Manningham (18 receptions) are the most accomplished members of a pass-catching corps that’s displayed surprising depth, with slot man Victor Cruz (21 receptions, 398 yards, 3 TD) and big- bodied tight end Jake Ballard (15 receptions, 2 TD) each making unexpected notable contributions to the ranks. The Giants’ running game has been less consistent, though primary back Ahmad Bradshaw (390 rushing yards, 19 receptions, 6 total TD) is coming off a 104-yard, three-touchdown output against the Bills and the club rushed for a season-best 122 yards that afternoon. Brandon Jacobs (116 rushing yards, 4 receptions, 3 total TD) should be back from a two-game absence to help lessen Bradshaw’s load, but the 264-pound bruiser was averaging just 3.1 yards per carry prior to his knee injury.
A Miami defense that yielded the sixth-fewest yards in the NFL last season has been a major disappointment in 2011, with the group entering this week’s play ranked 30th overall in pass efficiency defense and having induced a mere four turnovers in six games. The Dolphins had also been encountering difficulty rushing the passer prior to breaking out with a seven-sack barrage against the Broncos last Sunday, with 2010 Pro Bowl outside linebacker Cameron Wake (15 tackles, 5 sacks) heading up the onslaught with two takedowns of Tebow. Denver mustered just 125 net passing yards on the Dolphins with the ex-University of Florida star running the show, but the secondary did allow two late touchdown passes to Tebow and failed to record an interception for a third straight game. Miami has produced a league-low two picks on the year and also gave up a season-high 183 rushing yards to the Broncos, although that high figure was in part due to Tebow’s strong scrambling ability. Strong safety Yeremiah Bell (52 tackles, 1 sack) had seven tackles and a sack last week and leads the team in stops.