The Giants' offensive line is so banged up and depleted, relying on the last remnants of the depth chart, that Tom Coughlin had to ask Manning if he was comfortable enough to play a meaningless game (for the Giants at least) behind it against one of the league's most ferocious defensive fronts.
"As a matter of fact, we've talked about this,'' Coughlin said. "He wants to play and he's looking forward to playing and competing and having a better game. I wouldn't expect anything different.''
Manning downplayed his conversation with Coughlin as less than a passing chat.
"It never came up as a question whether I wanted to play or not, and I never thought about it any other way but going out there and playing,'' Manning said. "I want to compete. I want to make improvements and try to run this offense more efficiently and go out there and try to do the best I can and try to get a win.''
The Lions, on the other hand, will be playing for their playoff lives and Manning might end up being fresh meat for Detroit's Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley with the Giants' patchwork protection.
Manning, who has played 149 consecutive games, already has been sacked a career-high 36 times this season. Last week against the physical Seahawks he had to cower and curl up to avoid injury by the third snap of the game.
Protection has been an issue all season, as have injuries to the line. Both current starting guards — David Diehl and James Brewer — missed practice Wednesday, and those guys were already backups to previously injured starters. That left Dallas Reynolds and Brandon Mosley taking reps on either side of Kevin Boothe, who had to slide to center several weeks ago when the Giants lost backup Jim Cordle for the season after putting projected starter David Baas on IR.
"You want to be out there protecting your guys and fighting with your teammates,'' said Diehl, who suffered a knee injury in Sunday's game. "Yeah, it definitely plays in your mind.''
One can only hope Manning isn't in for a reality check.
"I think our guys, they'll be ready,'' Manning said. "They'll compete. Hopefully, we get some guys back, but whoever is in there we'll handle, we'll have a good plan and have all the faith in the world they'll do a good job.''
That may require more than faith, though.
"We're not going to put a new guy playing one-on-one on Suh all day and take seven-step drops and pump and go this way and that way,'' Manning said. "You've got to be smart about it in a sense, but you've still got to run our offense, and we'll make the best of it.''