INDIANAPOLIS — Eli Manning is a well-known creature of habit, from his studying process to his warm-ups to his tradition of watching "Seinfeld" episodes before big games.
Facing the Patriots is becoming one of those habits.
"It does feel like we've played them a decent amount in the last couple of years," Manning said Monday.
Truthfully, though, they haven't. They played twice in a little more than a month at the end of the 2007 season, when the Giants lost the regular-season finale, then won the Super Bowl against them. But until this past November, the Giants hadn't seen the Patriots in a meaningful game since that Arizona upset. They do play every preseason, but Manning rarely participates in that game.
So why the illusion of such familiarity?
"It's also a situation where you've seen them play so many times, from a fan or from watching Colts games or watching past Super Bowls growing up," Manning said. "You've seen them on TV a lot, so you know the players. You know the names. You know the style of football that they play, so it makes it seem like you've played them more than you have."
Manning has faced the Patriots three times in his career. He is 2-1 and has been remarkably similar against them each time, finishing with between 250 and 255 yards and between 32 and 39 completions. He's thrown eight touchdown passes against the Patriots (including four in the only loss), but also has thrown an interception in each of the games.
Oh, and each of those games has been decided by four or fewer points. The last two, the ones the Giants won, were decided on the final drive, on touchdown passes with 35 and 15 seconds remaining.
"Each year is a different year and each team is a different team," Tom Coughlin said. "Certainly the Patriots have been able to prove that they've been able to drive the ball at the end of the game and win, and fortunately, so have the Giants."
But the Giants seem to be one of the few who can do it against the Patriots.
"We have played them close in all those games," Manning said. "We do understand that they are very talented. They have the ability to score a lot of points. Their defense has the ability to keep you to a minimum of points. It's going to be a great challenge for both sides of the ball to do our jobs at a high level."