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WEEK 9: Bye Week
15 years ago  ::  Oct 31, 2007 - 2:48AM #1
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Michael EisenHealthy and ready
Though the record is the same, the circumstances surrounding the team are far different than they were a year ago.
By Michael Eisen, Giants.com

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October 30, 2007

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. ⁈“ The Giants are at once in the exact same spot and a far different place than they were a year ago halfway through their schedule.

TE Jeremy Shockey and rest of the Giants will return next wekk relatively healthy (GETTY)

After a bye week workout and team meeting today, the players scattered until Monday, when they will begin preparations for an important home game against the Dallas Cowboys. Sunday⁈⁚s 13-10 victory in London over the Miami Dolphins extended the Giants⁈⁚ winning streak to six games and left them with a 6-2 record ⁈“ the same mark they⁈⁚ve held in each of the previous two seasons.

In 2005, they finished 5-3 and won the NFC East with an 11-5 record. But last year, the Giants stumbled through a 2-6 second half before reaching the playoffs as a wild card.

Though the record is the same, the circumstances surrounding the team are far different than they were a year ago. The primary reason is that the team is much healthier than it was at the midway point a year ago.

Only one regular starter missed the Dolphins game because of injury ⁈“ safety James Butler, who has ankle and hamstring issues. Should Butler heal over the bye week, the Giants should have their entire starting lineup available for the ninth game of the season, an unusual occurrence in a league where high-speed collisions are an ordinary fact of life.

Contrast that with the situation a year ago. The Giants stretched their winning streak to five with a 14-10 victory over the Houston Texans. That left them at 6-2, with a huge home game upcoming against the Chicago Bears ⁈“ one similar in importance to the Cowboys game looming a week from Sunday.

But the Giants went into that game without seven key players, four of whom are making vital contributions to this year⁈⁚s team. On offense, Amani Toomer suffered a season-ending knee injury vs. Houston. Defensively, the Giants were without their top three ends: Michael Strahan (foot), Osi Umenyiora (hip flexor) and Justin Tuck (foot), as well as linebackers LaVar Arrington (Achilles tendon), Brandon Short (quad) and Carlos Emmons (groin).

Cornerback Sam Madison, who had missed the two previous two games with a strained hamstring, returned to action, but aggravated the injury in the second quarter and didn⁈⁚t get back on the field until Dec. 3. Left tackle Luke Petitgout suffered a season-ending fractured leg in the first half.

So in the biggest game of the year, the Giants started William Joseph and rookie Mathias Kiwanuka at the defensive end positions, Reggie Torbor and Gerris Wilkinson at linebacker and had R.W. McQuarters and Bob Whitfield playing long stretches for injured starters.

Strahan returned for only one game the rest of the season, then went on injured reserve. Tuck had surgery and was placed on I.R., joining Arrington, Toomer, Petitgout, Derrick Ward and, later, Chad Morton.

That⁈⁚s a significantly worse situation than what now faces the ⁈“ knock on wood ⁈“ healthy Giants.

With more good players available, the Giants are confident they are in a position to build on their strong start instead of collapsing after it.

⁈Å"I think we are a lot healthier than we were last year at 6-2,⁈  Toomer said today. ⁈Å"I think we have a much better balance, and I think our team has been together longer, so we are more comfortable around each other. I think this group of guys really enjoys being around each other.⁈ 

Before departing London yesterday, defensive end Justin Tuck was asked whether the Giants have a different ⁈Å"mindset⁈  at 6-2 than they had with the same record in 2006.

⁈Å"I don⁈⁚t think we have a different mindset,⁈  Tuck said. ⁈Å"We⁈⁚re healthy right now. I think that was the biggest thing going into (the second half) last year. We had some key pieces at that point. But as far as mindset, I don⁈⁚t think so. This team has a lot of experience and a lot of leadership, and the guys are pretty much the same way they were last year.⁈ 

But good health means only that the Giants should be able to put their best players on the field. It does not ensure results any more than the impressive first-half record does.

⁈Å"Just because you⁈⁚re 6-2, you know nothing⁈⁚s guaranteed,⁈  quarterback Eli Manning said.

⁈Å"We⁈⁚ve been 6-2 before,⁈  Coach Tom Coughlin said. ⁈Å"The good thing is it⁈⁚s an eight-game schedule. It⁈⁚s the end of the second phase of our season. Our team has earned the right to be in the position that we⁈⁚re in. We⁈⁚ve done many, many good things along the way.⁈ 

The season didn⁈⁚t begin that way. The Giants lost their first two games to Dallas and Green Bay, giving up 80 points in the process. In the current six-game winning streak that followed those losses, the Giants have allowed 79 points. Offensively, the Giants have at times relied heavily on both their rushing and passing attacks. And while the special teams have frustrated Coughlin at times, he did say yesterday that, ⁈Å"Special teams, we took a little step forward last night (against Miami).⁈ 

Because of their wide array of weapons on both offense and defense, because of the team⁈⁚s good health and because of the confidence and commitment exhibited by everyone, the players are confident they will enjoy a strong second half ⁈“ while remaining aware that they have to earn it.

⁈Å"We worked extremely hard to climb out of the hole that we were in early,⁈  tackle David Diehl said. ⁈Å"We have high expectations for ourselves and we need to keep moving forward. Coming into this bye week it gives a lot of guys time to rest themselves and get their bodies healthy. The next eight weeks are going to be tough and they⁈⁚re going to be challenging.⁈ 

⁈Å"Six-and-two is a great start, but we are not totally enamored with it like I think we were before,⁈  Toomer said. ⁈Å"We have done it a couple of times. I think everybody knows that it is not good enough and we are not happy with where we are. I mean, we are happy with where we are, but we are not going to rest on where we are.⁈ 

That⁈⁚s exactly the attitude Coughlin expects the players to carry with them when they return to work next week.

15 years ago  ::  Nov 02, 2007 - 4:25AM #2
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so basically they should go farther then ever because they are healthier?

god lets hope so
15 years ago  ::  Nov 02, 2007 - 4:33AM #3
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Looking forward to the week off, and then the big game against the Cowboys.

I'm hoping they can go at least 5-3 against a somewhat tougher schedule, and at least clinch a home-field playoff game. And win it.

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