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Eli talks bye, Fins, Peyton-less Colts

Aside from relaxing, getting some rest and going pumpkin picking with his wife and daughter during the bye week, Eli Manning did get a chance to sit down and watch some football this weekend.

Manning said he watched the Miami-Denver game to study the Dolphins, who the Giants play this Sunday. He also watched a Peyton-less Colts team get walloped by New Orleans, and came away impressed by the Saints and Falcons.

“Their defense looked pretty good for 55 minutes,” Manning said of Miami, which fell to 0-6 after blowing a 15-point fourth-quarter lead to Tim Tebow and the Broncos, on ESPN 1050’s “The Michael Kay Show” on Monday night.

Manning doesn’t expect the 4-2 Giants to overlook the winless Dolphins, though it would be easy to given Big Blue’s daunting second-half schedule.

“We know we gotta have a great week of preparation watching film,” Manning said. “They’ve played a lot of close games. They’re not a winless team that’s getting beat badly. They play hard and play and play to the very end and run some unique stuff defensively.”

Manning said the key to beating Miami is limiting mistakes, staying focused, playing hard and sticking to the gameplan.

Asked what the Giants need to improve on going forward, Manning mentioned third downs twice. Big Blue ranks 26th in third-down conversion percentage (31.5).

“I guess if you have a loss on your record you could always be better,” Manning said. “I think we’ve made improvements. I think we’ve gotten better, learned some lessons and fought back at the end of games and given ourselves a chance. Offensively we had a better week running the ball (against Buffalo) and we’re having success throwing the football and hitting on big plays, getting good yardage and moving the ball.”

After facing Miami, the Giants last nine opponents this season have a combined record of 37-18 and a winning percentage of .672.

“That’s what makes [football] fun, when you’re playing good teams,” Manning said of what looks to be a “Murder’s Row” type stretch. “We’re gonna find out how good we are and that starts this week. Each game is gonna be a test. Each game presents challenges. ... It should be a great second half of the season and we’re looking forward to it.”

Manning said it’s tough to watch the Colts right now without his older brother under center.

“Their defense doesn’t look quite as powerful as they’ve looked at times, and their offense isn’t clicking,” Manning said. “They have young QBs and they just weren’t expecting this to happen to Peyton. ... It’s wearing on them and they’re getting frustrated.”

Manning was happy for former teammate Plaxico Burress, who caught three touchdown passes for the rival Jets in their 27-21 victory over the Chargers.

“It’s good to see him get in the end zone and score some touchdowns,” Manning said. “That’s one of the things he’s talented at. He’s a big target with a knack for getting open, knowing coverages and using his moves to get separation.”