Most will be looking closely at tonight's preseason finale against the New England Patriots to get one final read on the Giants before they head into the games that count.

The starters will be on the field for just a sliver of the contest -- "Very little," Tom Coughlin said, "it's a pitch count." But there should be enough to parse out where the team is at as the preseason comes to an end, in particular the offense which has been sluggish through most of the summer.

A quick-strike touchdown? A successful long drive? A three-and-out? It can surely make all the difference as a barometer moving forward.

Well, not to Eli Manning.

"Obviously, you always like to go out there and have completions and score points," the quarterback said. "But it's not going to affect the confidence in any way."

For Manning, going through his 12th preseason but only his second with this offensive system, the preseason isn't about revving the engine and putting up big numbers that will carry through to the regular season.

"For me, preseason is just trying to grow within the offense," he said yesterday. "Just trying to get the timing of the game speed. Moving in the pocket, the rush, making adjustments ... That's kind of what I try to gain out of the preseason."

In other words, whatever happens in Foxborough stays in Foxborough.

Coughlin didn't seem too invested in the outcome of this game or his team shaking the doldrums of August, either.

"Play well," he urged the starters. "Take it and score. Stop the other guy. Stop the run. Run the ball. I'll get some opinions based on that stuff."

advertisement | advertise on newsday

But mostly he'll be watching what happens after Manning has donned his baseball cap and the backups take the field.

"Some of the roster spots, decisions have to be made," Coughlin said. "It's spelled 'opportunity.' When you get a chance to play like this, have a game in which you can amass 60 snaps or something along those lines, plus special teams, it would be a good thing."