Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo usually begins his weekly news conferences by summarizing his thoughts on the most recent game. When he spoke on Thursday, it was almost as if that win against Washington took place years ago rather than a week earlier.

"It seems like forever ago we played a game," he said.

It sure does. While the wait would have been interminable had the Giants lost that game on Sept. 24 and gone through the last week and a half with an 0-3 record, the win allowed them to exhale a bit and regroup during the long break. But now that it is time to get back on the field, as they will against the Bills on Sunday in Buffalo, the challenge is to recapture any momentum that they had coming off their first and only victory of the season.

The win against Washington will be only as good as how the Giants play after it, and that begins this week.

"It would be a great thing to build on," Tom Coughlin said of the long-ago victory. "You hope to not be disrupted once you start to get going. But the key thing is, we have to keep improving and playing better. That's the whole key."

It's one of the few things the Giants were somewhat competent at accomplishing in the previous two years. In 2013, they lost their first six games and then won five of their next six. Last year they won only six games, but they came in a pair of three-game winning streaks that sandwiched a seven-game losing streak.

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How these Giants respond to their first victory will determine the direction of their season. No one believes the win over Washington was improbable or sent any kind of statement in the locker room or to the rest of the league. It was an ugly game against a less-than-feared opponent, and the Giants had to hold on at the end to avoid being bucked from success.

The Bills will pose a different kind of test. They are a formidable defense with an exciting quarterback and a strong running game -- even with former Eagle and noted Giants-killer LeSean McCoy out with a hamstring injury.

The Giants were a noticeably loose group this week, even while they digested the disappointment of Victor Cruz's setback with a strained calf.

"I would say it's because of the win, first," defensive captain Jon Beason said. "You know the sun came up and all is well. When you win the game, I think it carries on throughout the week."

If the Giants win this one, it could carry them even further.

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It would improve their record to .500 -- a position they were in during only three weeks in the previous two seasons -- and could land them in a logjam tie for first place in the NFC East if the Romo-less and Dez-less Cowboys lose to the Saints.

Even with that on the line, no one is calling this a "must-win" game the way they were before that first victory came about. The pressure of the glaring zero in the win column has been dismissed for another year. With it comes some relief, but not too much.

"I wouldn't say we're loose, I would say we're tightened in the right areas, which makes us firing," running back Rashad Jennings said. "We're having a good time playing football like we know how to so we've got to keep building on that. This is a big game. It's a road game for us, we're going against a great opponent. It's an opportunity to get another W."