New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz #80 fumbles the...

New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz #80 fumbles the ball as he is tackled by Earl Thomas #29 Walter Thurmand #28, and David Hawthorne #57 of the Seattle Seahawks in the fourth quarter. The Seahawks won 36-25. (Oct. 9, 2011) Credit: Newsday/Joe Epstein

Tom Coughlin tried to muster up as many notes as he could to reinforce the idea that the Dolphins are a formidable opponent. What did he come up with? Well, they aren't penalized a lot. And they often are not very far behind late in games before falling even further behind. They were a very good team on the road . . . last season.

"My thought on them is that the Dolphins have played hard," Coughlin said.

The truth is that there isn't much you can praise the 0-6 Dolphins for. They are in the top 10 in the NFL in three categories: fewest penalty yards, net punting average, and opponents' field-goal percentage. Their coach, Tony Sparano, was heard begging an official for a call on Sunday -- at a point when he had the lead -- in an effort to save his job and reportedly has put his home up for sale in South Florida. Even their fans have been openly rooting against them, hoping to secure the consensus No. 1 overall draft pick next spring: Andrew Luck.

But Coughlin has a message regarding the winless opponent. "Respect all, fear none," he said. The Dolphins make that half as easy as it sounds.

So essentially the Giants will get one last preseason game on Sunday to prepare for their grueling march through November and December that begins next weekend in New England. The only difference here is that if they lose, it counts.

The Giants already have had their eyes opened by playing to the level of a seemingly inferior opponent when they lost to the Seahawks at home on Oct. 9. It's the same Seahawks team that lost, 6-3, to Cleveland on Sunday. And Coughlin reminded the team of quarterback Matt Moore's performance against them in the final game at Giants Stadium two years ago, when he came in with the overmatched Panthers and swung the first wrecking ball at the old place with a 41-9 win that officially eliminated the Giants from postseason contention.

"It doesn't matter who we are playing or what their record is, our next best challenge is the next team on your schedule," cornerback Corey Webster said. "Everybody is professional, everybody is good, and anybody can win. They haven't put it together yet but that doesn't say that they are not going to be prepared and come out here and work hard to put their best foot forward."

The Giants are giving the Dolphins their daily affirmations this week. The way they've been talking, they may believe in the Dolphins' chances more than the Dolphins do.

Moore admitted yesterday that the losses are frustrating, but that the team still thinks it can win. "If you really stop believing you can win, you have no shot," he said.

Ultimately, Sunday will be more about the Giants focusing on their own game than worrying about the Dolphins' mess. The Giants are getting a big group of players back healthy and they'll have their starting offensive line in place for the first time in a month.

But until Sunday, the Giants will continue searching for and trumpeting every positive they can find about the Dolphins. "They have talent, they do good things," Eli Manning said. "A lot of teams have had trouble with them."

The Giants just hope they aren't one of them. They can talk up the Dolphins all they want. They just have to make sure on Sunday evening they aren't saying: "See, we told you so."

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