For the Giants (6-2), this is a statement game. It's a chance to show the rest of the NFL their second-half flops in recent seasons are a thing of the past and this team is capable of challenging for a conference title.
"We all know that we had a good run of six games, but this is the real test for us against one of the best teams in the division, in the league," veteran receiver Amani Toomer said Monday after the Giants returned from their bye week. "If we want to be considered in that upper echelon in the league, this is a team we are going to have to beat to show that."
Dallas has steamrolled six opponents since that opening Sunday night game, losing only to the undefeated New England Patriots.
After opening 0-2 and giving up 80 points, the Giants have found themselves. They reeled off six straight wins, although the last five have come against teams with a combined 13-36 record.
The second half is going to be a lot tougher. The eight teams on the schedule are a combined 40-25, and six of the eight posted wins on Sunday. Chicago (3-5) had a bye, while Philadelphia (3-5) was crushed by Dallas 38-17.
The Giants' defense has come a long way in the last six games. Ranked dead last after the opening week, New York is now ranked seventh overall after allowing 95 points during its six-game winning streak. After only two sacks in its first two games, they got 28 in the next six for a league-best 30 at the halfway point.
"This is not the same team or the same defense," said backup defensive end Justin Tuck, who has seven sacks. "I don't think we were playing anywhere near the same caliber that we are playing now.
"We're not even talking about the competition," he added. "We're talking just our part, the execution and doing the things we need to do to stop offenses."
"We're going to have to do our part," Manning said. "We feel we can and expect to score against them, but we are going to have to put up some points."
The Giants are also going to have to overcome a couple of quirks that have hurt them in recent seasons.
The first is the bye-week blues. Since 1990, New York is 4-14 playing the week after the bye, although it beat Washington last season to snap a five-game slide in that area.
The other problem is the second-half slide that has plagued Tom Coughlin's teams since he took over in 2004. New York has finished the second half with records of 1-7, 5-3 and 2-6, respectively, in the three previous seasons.
"It's a different feel I have around this team," he said. "It is a different team than we have had in the past. I just have a feeling that guys in this locker room won't let it spiral the way it has in the past."
Toomer believes this team not only knows what to do, but is confident it can change things. He also feels the Giants know they had a chance to beat Dallas and let it slip away.
"They have definitely had a good run," Toomer said of the Cowboys. "I am not taking anything away from them. We feel we know exactly what they got and they know exactly what we got. We feel like we match up well against them."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press