Most will be looking closely at Thursday night's preseason finale against the Patriots to get a 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 game. "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 most of the summer.

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

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Well, not to Eli Manning.

"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, it isn't about revving the engine and putting up big numbers that will carry through to the regular season.

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"For me, preseason is just trying to grow within the offense,'' he said Tuesday. "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.

Neither did Coughlin seem too invested in the outcome of this game or his team shaking the doldrums of August, at least not as it pertains to the regular season.

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"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.''

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

"I'm very interested in that, how they handle that,'' he said. "Some of the roster spots, decisions have to be made. 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.''

So, too, would be seeing some production from the starting offense, just to ease the nerves of Giants fans if not the Giants themselves.

"In this game, we won't have many options,'' Manning said. "Maybe one series or two. So hopefully, go out there and get something going. Get some first downs, move the ball, get a little rhythm, and then start getting our focus for Dallas.''

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Notes & quotes: The Giants re-signed Chris Boswell to do the placekicking in place of Josh Brown, who bruised his leg making a tackle on a kickoff two weeks ago. Brown kicked against the Jets last weekend but has been limited in practices, and the Giants want him rested for the regular season. Boswell was in training camp with the Giants but was waived Aug. 16.