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All 6-2 records are not created equal

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Michael Eisen of Giants.com wrote this story about a week ago, but it's a great look at how this New York Giants team is a lot different than the one that reached the halfway point with the same 6-2 record last season.

Here's a snippet.

Though the record is the same, the circumstances surrounding the team are far different than they were a year ago. The primary reason is that the team is much healthier than it was at the midway point a year ago.

Only one regular starter missed the Dolphins game because of injury - safety James Butler, who has ankle and hamstring issues. Should Butler heal over the bye week, the Giants should have their entire starting lineup available for the ninth game of the season, an unusual occurrence in a league where high-speed collisions are an ordinary fact of life.

Contrast that with the situation a year ago. The Giants stretched their winning streak to five with a 14-10 victory over the Houston Texans. That left them at 6-2, with a huge home game upcoming against the Chicago Bears - one similar in importance to the Cowboys game looming a week from Sunday.

But the Giants went into that game without seven key players, four of whom are making vital contributions to this year's team. On offense, Amani Toomer suffered a season-ending knee injury vs. Houston. Defensively, the Giants were without their top three ends: Michael Strahan (foot), Osi Umenyiora (hip flexor) and Justin Tuck (foot), as well as linebackers LaVar Arrington (Achilles tendon), Brandon Short (quad) and Carlos Emmons (groin).

Cornerback Sam Madison, who had missed the two previous two games with a strained hamstring, returned to action, but aggravated the injury in the second quarter and didn't get back on the field until Dec. 3. Left tackle Luke Petitgout suffered a season-ending fractured leg in the first half.

So in the biggest game of the year, the Giants started William Joseph and rookie Mathias Kiwanuka at the defensive end positions, Reggie Torbor and Gerris Wilkinson at linebacker and had R.W. McQuarters and Bob Whitfield playing long stretches for injured starters.

Strahan returned for only one game the rest of the season, then went on injured reserve. Tuck had surgery and was placed on I.R., joining Arrington, Toomer, Petitgout, Derrick Ward and, later, Chad Morton.

That's a significantly worse situation than what now faces the - knock on wood - healthy Giants.

With more good players available, the Giants are confident they are in a position to build on their strong start instead of collapsing after it.

"I think we are a lot healthier than we were last year at 6-2," Toomer said today. "I think we have a much better balance, and I think our team has been together longer, so we are more comfortable around each other. I think this group of guys really enjoys being around each other."

Let's hope Eisen and Toomer are correct.