A sampling of columns from around the country this week:

Eli best choice for MVP


Eli Manning shouldn't need these last four regular-season games to be a front-runner for the NFL Most Valuable Player award. But if the 11-1 Giants run the table, engrave the trophy. Just give it to Eli already. All that talk about how Manning is merely a caretaker of the Giants' offense is about to evaporate again. Now that Plaxico Burress is gone from the Super Bowl champs, joining Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora and Jeremy Shockey, anyone still questioning which Giant is the real rock of the NFL's best team shouldn't need to see how Manning does the rest of the way. He already gave an answer Sunday against the Redskins. Not much more than 24 hours after the Giants woke up to the head-spinning news that Burress had accidentally shot himself last Saturday and that Antonio Pierce could be in legal trouble for his involvement in the situation, any anxiety about how the Giants might react dissipated when Manning threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Amani Toomer on the team's very first possession.



Wise move for the Irish?

Tyrone Willingham believes "maybe Notre Dame got it right" in its decision to retain Charlie Weis for a fifth season, despite a record slightly worse than the one that cost Willingham the job as Irish football coach after three seasons. "It's not just my issue, it's a college football issue - we have to give coaches a chance to do their job," Willingham said Thursday from Seattle, where he recently was fired as the University of Washington's coach after four seasons, the last of them winless. "Because now we have coaches ... especially some of the minority coaches ... losing their jobs after 2 1/2 years. That's not right." Willingham was the first African-American head coach of any sport at Notre Dame and the first football coach fired with time (two years) remaining on his original contract, after a three-year record of 21-15 (.583) and two bowl appearances. Weis is 28-21 (.571) with two bowl appearances in four seasons, 15 of those losses coming in the past two years. Weis was given a 10-year extension in the midst of his first year while succeeding with Willingham recruits such as quarterback Brady Quinn and wide receiver Jeff Samardzija. Rarely has Willingham injected race into an assessment of his Notre Dame tenure, but he opened up Thursday. "For me, the experience was a steppingstone, hopefully not a steppingstone personally but a steppingstone for African-Americans," he said. "The sad thing is the way all of it happened. There was that somewhat ghosted image that we were not successful. That's not the truth. Of the three years there, two of those were bowl teams."


Bell rings again for Dundee

Angelo Dundee is back in Las Vegas, his second home. He's going from opulent hotel to pungent gym. Between the blinging of slot machines and the thumping of boxing gloves, he's feeling a rhythm deep in his 87-year-old bones. The noise is building. Nerves are tightening. There's a giddy edge to the desert city, manifested in twitching neon. The big fight is tonight. Dundee has been in the corner for so many big fights through six decades as trainer of 15 world champions. Even after all those bouts, mending the bloody cuts and sponging the puffy faces of Carmen Basilio, Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard and George Foreman, he can hardly contain his anticipation of the next one, which is Oscar De La Hoya vs. Manny Pacquiao at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. "This town is all shook up - it's going to be a classic," Dundee said. Dundee won't work the corner this time, but he'll be right behind it, advising De La Hoya and his trainer, Nacho Beristain, as he has throughout the Golden Boy's preparation. De La Hoya, 35, called on Dundee for his wisdom. Dundee is predicting the popular and polished Angeleno will win.