Saquon Barkley is peaking and ready to push for rushing title

His recent surge has vaulted Saquon Barkley into contention for the NFL rushing title. With 1,124 yards entering Sunday against the Titans, he is third in the league, 79 yards behind Todd Gurley and 138 yards behind Ezekiel Elliott.

Barkley is on an upswing, coming off a season-high 170 yards against the Redskins and averaging 134.5 yards in his past four games. With the Rams and Cowboys possibly locking up their spots in the playoffs, Gurley and Elliott might not be given full workloads the last two games, which could help Barkley make up the difference.

It has been 67 years since a Giants player led the league in rushing — Eddie Price did it in 1951.

“It wouldn’t mean something to me to win the rushing title just in my first year,” Barkley said. “Hopefully, before I’m done playing this sport, I would love to get one of those, because that’s just a team effort there, especially with the O-line. Even though statistically your name will be the leading rusher, you’ll be up on the top, but that’s just with the help of your offensive line.’’

The Titans have taken notice. Safety Kenny Vaccaro told reporters in Nashville: “When you say, ‘If God could make a running back,’ he’d make Saquon Barkley.’’

The Titans are the league’s 17th-ranked run defense, allowing 115.2 yards per game.

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At this time last season, when injuries ravaged the receiving corps, Eli Manning had to break in rookies and practice-squad call-ups with little or no experience. Even without Odell Beckham Jr., Manning this time around at least gets to throw to players with NFL pedigree — such as Russell Shepard, Bennie Fowler and Corey Coleman, in addition to starter Sterling Shepard.

“Last year, we lost a bunch of guys,’’ Manning said. “It’s a little bit different. We have guys who’ve been here, and guys that know what they’re doing and you trust, and you have reps with them. I feel comfortable with all the guys out there, and do a good job of rotating some guys in, and make sure they’re doing the things they do well.’’

Barkley finished tops among all running backs and third overall among all players in the fan voting for the Pro Bowl. The only players with more votes than Barkley? Drew Brees and Patrick Mahomes.

The Giants are averaging 31.4 points in their past five games after averaging just 18.6 points in their first eight. … After getting called for a total of 23 penalties in games against the Eagles and Bears, the Giants were hit with just two penalties last week at Washington. It was the first time in franchise history the Giants had 13 fewer penalties in a game than their opponent.

“We preach the pre-snap and the stupid penalties, and that we need to avoid those at all costs’’ coach Pat Shurmur said. “There’s penalties of aggression that happen at some point. You’re just playing hard and you may get a hand to the face or an errant facemask or whatever or a PI [pass interference]. But the dumb ones and the pre-snap ones, those are the ones that we certainly coach to avoid.”

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