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Eli gets benefit of doubt on 'Top 100 Players of 2013'

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning was voted No. 43 on NFL Network's "The Top 100 Players of 2013." The ranking places him ninth among quarterbacks.

The ranking is a clear nod to Manning's dominant 2011 stretch run that culminated in his second Super Bowl MVP award.

Top 100 Players of 2013
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Manning simply had too many cold streaks last season to be ranked ahead of Russell Wilson and Ben Roethlisberger if the list is based primarily on 2012 game performance and production. For the first time since coach Tom Coughlin's first season in 2004, the Giants went three consecutive games without an offensive touchdown as Manning battled speculation of a "tired arm."

In addition to a mid-season string during which Eli failed to throw more than one touchdown pass in seven of eight games, he turned in two of the worst games of his career with the season on the line in Weeks 15 and 16.

After the season, Manning cited Hakeem Nicks' nagging injuries as the primary reason for the offense's struggles. There's no question that the timing was off between Manning and his wide receivers, who struggled suddenly to separate themselves from coverage. Nicks and Martellus Bennett battled injuries while Victor Cruz was getting used to extra defensive attention.

It didn't help that the Giants' offensive line took a turn for the worse, forcing Manning to pull the ball down or force passes.

Even with a five-touchdown performance in a virtually meaningless season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles, Manning failed to finish with 4,000 yards and 27 TD passes for the first time since 2008.

Manning certainly has earned the "franchise gold" label over the past half-decade, but he doesn't belong ahead of Roethlisberger on any quarterback list.

Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.

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