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Eli Manning believes Giants ‘definitely’ are a playoff team

Giants quarterback Eli Manning speaks to the media

Giants quarterback Eli Manning speaks to the media inside the locker room of Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on Monday, Nov. 16, 2015. Credit: James Escher

UNION, N.J. — It would have been news had Eli Manning said the Giants would miss the playoffs for the fifth straight season since winning Super Bowl XLVI. But when he was asked Wednesday if he believes the 2016 Giants are playoff-bound, Manning responded as you would expect from the quarterback.

“Yes, definitely,” said Manning, who appeared on behalf of Gatorade at the Offense/Defense Camp Wednesday morning at Kean University. “We added some great players in the offseason, we were aggressive in free agency, but we still have a lot of our core guys back, especially on offense. They made some good moves on defense, so, I think getting some guys back healthy, the talent is there.”

The key, Manning added, is learning to close out tight wins in the fourth quarter. “We had a lot of opportunities to win them last year,” Manning said, “and couldn’t win enough.”

Not only have the Giants missed the playoffs the past four seasons, but they finished with a losing record the past three years, which is why offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo replaced Tom Coughlin after his scripted resignation.

The numerous changes the Giants made to improve their defense and the addition of rookie Sterling Shepard to the receiving corps are important, but the X factor might be how the chemistry works between McAdoo and a quarterback out from under Coughlin’s sway for the first time in 13 years.

During the recent passing camp he and older brother Peyton run, Eli Manning expressed confidence the Giants can improve on last season’s 26.2 points per game, which ranked sixth in the NFL. “We were close to that last year, and I feel we should be better just by the players we’ve added,” Manning said.

“Our defense being better should get us more turnovers, more opportunities with the ball. It’s the third year in this offense for me and a lot of the guys.”

Although Manning is a two-time Super Bowl MVP, he made dramatic adjustments to his mechanics over the past two seasons with McAdoo as offensive coordinator. Manning threw for just over 4,400 yards each season, threw 30 and 35 TD passes, ranked seventh each season in passing yardage and limited his interceptions to 14 each season.

His trust in McAdoo and confidence in what they can do together is unmistakable. “It was tough at times, and I did ask a lot of questions,” Manning said. “He was patient with me in trying to change some things that had been ingrained since I was 10 years old. But it made sense when I asked questions why. I said, ‘Hey, I’m going to go all in and do it the way he wants it and be committed to it and have faith in him.’ I think it’s worked out.”

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