EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Mostly overlooked in the preseason and dismissed by many after three games, the New York Giants are now the fashionable pick as the NFC’s best team.

Michael Strahan, Troy Aikman, and most of the Sunday NFL analysts have jumped on the Tom Coughlin bandwagon halfway through the season, and with good reason.

The Giants (6-2) are rolling. They have won five straight and have outscored their opponents 161-75 in the span.

Eli Manning and the offense have posted consecutive 40-point games and the defense has returned to its fearsome roots, knocking out five opposing quarterbacks this season, including Dallas’ Tony Romo with a broken left collarbone.

It’s easy to think the Giants are headed back to the Super Bowl after a disappointing 8-8 season in 2009 left them watching the postseason for the first time since 2004.

But, before making party plans, take a step back and take a breath.

This also is the same organization that started last season with a 5-0 record and flopped down the stretch, losing eight of its final 11.

Also look at who the Giants have beaten. Chicago (5-3), Detroit (2-6), Houston (4-4), Dallas (1-7) and Seattle (4-4) have not been lighting up the NFL. The Bears are 2-3 since playing the Giants. The Texans are 1-3. The Cowboys, who fired coach Wade Phillips on Monday, have lost five straight and Seattle has been crushed in its last two contests.

And the Lions are improved, yes. But, as they showed in the final two minutes on Sunday vs. the Jets, they are still the Lions, after all.

Take a look at the NFC standings, too. The Giants are tied with Atlanta for the best record with New Orleans and Green Bay a tad behind at 6-3. Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and Chicago are all at 5-3 and St. Louis and Seattle are in the postseason mix at 4-4 because they share the lead in the dismal NFC West.

If the Giants slip, they not only will lose their favorite role, they could also see their playoff chances put in jeopardy.

Veteran Rich Seubert said being anointed as the NFC favorites isn’t something the Giants are worried about with five games left against NFC East opponents, including two with the Eagles.

“What the league wants to think is what people want to think,” Seubert said. “We just know that we have a good football team, and we want to go out there every week and play to our best, whether it’s offense, defense, special teams. When we play together as a team, we have something special. We just have to keep it going.”

Injuries, which contributed to the Giants demise last season, are a concern. The Giants picked up a couple in their 41-7 win over the Seahawks on Sunday.

David Diehl, who has started 120 consecutive games on the offensive line, suffered hip and hamstring injuries and might be sidelined for a couple of games, starting this weekend when Dallas and new interim coach Jason Garrett come to the Meadowlands. Backup center Adam Koets also was lost for the season with a major knee injury.

But Coughlin and the Giants will push on, and will prepare for a mess of a Cowboys team.

“I feel very badly for Wade, to be honest with you,” Coughlin said. “It’s a highly competitive business that we’re in, and we want to win and we want to win every game. That’s the nature of our profession. No one wants to see a coach dismissed or have his family go through what they’re going through, so from a professional standpoint and someone that’s one of the 32, we extend our best to Wade and his family.”

This will be the first time the Giants will face a coach making his NFL debut in the middle of a season since Nov. 21, 1994, when Houston’s (now Tennessee’s) Jeff Fisher took over the Oilers prior to a Monday night game against the Giants in the Astrodome. The Giants won.

Cornerback Terrell Thomas said the Giants are blocking out the distraction and focusing on themselves.

“We don’t know where the destination is going to end for us,” Thomas said. “We’re worrying about winning the NFC East and getting into the playoffs and we’ll worry about the playoffs and the Super Bowl when that time comes.”

Seubert shrugged off references to last season, saying this is a different team.

“We’re just playing well right now, and we need to keep that going,” Seubert said. “It’s a long season and we still have eight games left. We need to keep plugging away and keep on getting better. We have the Cowboys coming in this week, and they’re a dangerous team. Everybody knows their record and that doesn’t matter. They have a good defense and we have to find a way to beat them.”

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

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