Even when the Giants were 7-7 and a berth in the playoffs was no sure thing, Eli Manning thought they had a chance to go to the Super Bowl.
"I knew there was a shot. We have talent on this team, we have guys who are committed to being good. It's just a matter of, 'Can we put it all together? Can we play our best football at the right time? And that's just what's happened," Manning said Monday in an interview on ESPN New York 1050's "The Michael Kay Show."
They now sit one way from their second Super Bowl in the Manning Era. In the Giants' way, of course, are the New England Patriots, the same team they beat in Super Bowl XLII.
"It is a little strange that we get a shot to go to the Super Bowl and we get the same opponent in New England," Manning told Kay.
Manning and the Giants will head to Indianapolis on Monday after practicing on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Manning said one piece of advice he will share to his inexperienced teammates is to avoid treating this week as if it's a bye week.
"Practice like you're playing Sunday," Manning said. ".... Whatever your schedule is in a normal week, you want to keep is as normal as possible," he said.
Manning took a pounding against San Francisco, getting sacked six times. He noted that he's 'sore' but could have practiced on Monday if it was necessary.
"There are some weeks where you are happy that you have two weeks between games," he said.
Manning will be playing the big game in Lucas Oil Stadium, in the current home of his older brother Peyton Manning. Peyton Manning's future with the team is uncertain. He won a Super Bowl with Indianapolis in 2007 but lost to the Saints in Super Bowl XLIV.
Little brother Eli was there for both games, so he's familiar with the sting that comes from a Super Bowl loss. It's a feeling he hopes to avoid on Feb. 5.
"It's no fun going there and not win. I can tell you that. I don't want to experience that. The goal is to go in there and win this thing," Manning said.