Giants eager for their rematch with the Cowboys

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- First place in the NFC East won't be all that's on the line when the New York Giants face the Dallas Cowboys this weekend.

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."

The Cowboys (7-1) beat the Giants 45-35 in the season opener that was competitive for the most part.

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.

Giants guard Chris Snee watched the first half of the Eagles-Cowboys game before turning it off, knowing the result was not in doubt.

"They looked good," Snee said of the Cowboys. "They have looked good since we saw them in Week 1. Obviously they had a setback against the Patriots. They are playing well in all three phases. We're going to have to show up and play our best game."

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."

Offensively, Eli Manning and the Giants showed they could score against Dallas. New York gained a season-high 438 yards and Manning threw for 314 yards and four touchdowns, including three to Plaxico Burress.

"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.

Snee hopes the Giants have learned from the experience.

"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."

The Giants are looking forward to erasing any doubts, "making a statement with this game," he said.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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