You wouldn’t have known that it was a mere seven months ago that a panicking Eli Manning ducked four tacklers, threw a football a few feet over an extremely well-defended receiver’s helmet, and ended up making NFL history as the quarterback who finally knocked off an undefeated Patriots team in Superbowl XLII. The 2008 Giants season began not with inflated expectations but with a distracted fan base: New York was hysterical over Brett Favre joining the New York Jets, or obsessing over the swooning prospects of both Mets and Yankees, or, worst of all, absorbed in the genteel proceedings over at Flushing Meadows, where Roger Federer was in the midst of winning his fifth U.S. Open title in five years. Meanwhile, the Giants merely began winning, again, and Manning–who still wears the look of a scared child, even as he carries one of the league’s best quarterback ratings into Sunday’s contest with the hapless San Francisco 49ers–has emerged as a bona fide, if unlikely, star. Don’t expect this team to look anything but great against a guy named J.T. O’Sullivan.

Sun., Oct. 19, 1 p.m., 2008