I'm thinking about this as I write it - I haven't really given it a lot of forethought....but is Eli Manning a better quarterback without Jeremy Shockey? Shockey broke his leg a month ago, and the Giants have won two playoff games since then.
Now, I need to say that I don't hate Shockey...but I don't like him very much. I think he's pretty overrated as a tight end, and I think, while he has matured from the guy who singlehandedly cost the Giants that playoff loss to Jeff Garcia and the 49ers a few years back (hey - how about the Giants exorcising those demons this post-season - Jeff Garcia, then Terrell Owens....is Kevan Barlow now playing for Green Bay? [Upon further research, there is no one on Green Bay's roster who played for San Francisco in 2002. That would have been cool.]), I think he's still pretty cocky and immature. And I don't like players like that.
But Shockey has been a go-to target for Manning over the past couple of years. And he drops a lot of passes. Could that bring Manning down in the early part of games, and affect the way he plays later on? Is this Kevin Boss kid a more reliable target, albeit one that won't get as many yards after the catch, and bolstering Manning's confidence throughout the game?
Maybe without having the Shockey crutch, Manning is getting the ball to Amani Toomer more, and Toomer is continuing to do what he's done pretty much all year, make big plays...but now he's making more big plays because he's seeing the ball more without Jeremy Shockey on the field.
Plaxico Burress is the same downfield threat, with or without Shockey. And the loss of Shockey hasn't seemed to hurt the running game.
The Giants have shown they can win without Shockey, no question about that. But could he be dragging down their quarterback? I'm going to say yes, because I've seen Eli Manning play the best football of his career without Jeremy Shockey the past month.
Championship game picks will be up Friday afternoon - put yours in the comments.