Eli Manning says arm feels good

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Eli Manning returned from the New York Giants' bye week refreshed, recharged and with his arm feeling lively.

"It felt like the ball was coming out where I wanted it to," said Manning, who threw Monday for the first time since last Monday. "I think it definitely had a little bit more pop to it. You take a week off, and it will definitely give it a little bit more fire, so it was good."

Coach Tom Coughlin said his quarterback looked "sharp" during a light practice. Manning is looking to rebound from his worst three-game stretch since the second, third and fourth starts of his rookie season. He has not thrown a touchdown pass in his past three games and had two costly interceptions that led to two Bengals touchdowns in a 31-13 loss at Cincinnati on Nov. 11 -- the last game the Giants played.

Manning has thrown for only one touchdown in his past 18 quarters, which led to talk that he had a tired arm -- something Manning and his coaches dismissed last week.

"I didn't think there was anything to it," Manning said. "In practices, I thought I was throwing the ball well. I felt no fatigue. Obviously, sometimes during the course of the season you may not realize it, but today the arm felt good. I threw some deep ones and didn't have to struggle to get it out there. It was just coming out well."

As he said he would do, Manning stayed away from football during the bye. He spent time with his family in Mississippi and didn't bring his laptop with him to watch any film.

It was a rare occasion during the season for Manning to get away from the game and from studying and scouting an opponent. He also got to rest his arm.

"Usually after the bye, you kind of have a little more pep in your step and the arm is a little bit more live," Manning said. "I feel the same. It's always good after 10 weeks to get a little break and refresh the mind and the body."

The Giants needed to recharge and refocus. They have not played their best football since mid-October, when they routed the 49ers 26-3 in San Francisco. Since then, they struggled to put away the Redskins and Cowboys before losing to the Steelers and Bengals.

Defensive end Justin Tuck said the Giants did not lose any confidence on this two-game slide.

"Not confidence, just maybe a little focus," Tuck said Monday. "We lost a little focus, and I think everybody on this team feels that we can be the best team in the league when we're playing our style of football. It's just unfortunate we haven't played our style of football the last couple of weeks."

The Giants (6-4) are clinging to a one-game lead over Dallas in the NFC East. Their final six games are home to the Packers, at the Redskins, home to the Saints, at the Falcons, at the Ravens and home to the Eagles.

What will go a long way toward coming out of that six-game gauntlet as a playoff team will be Manning returning to his Super Bowl MVP level of play.

"He looked sharp," wide receiver Victor Cruz said. "We were out there completing the football. We were on the same page; everybody was running good routes, lots of positive things. I'm excited to go out there on Sunday and put it on the field."

The Giants' offense will have to help Manning. Rested receiver Hakeem Nicks should help the offense, which has to play more efficiently in the red zone and on third downs.

"We're very close in a lot of things and our third down, our green zone, we're close to being very successful," Manning said. "And so it's just a matter of emphasizing just a little bit more on our technique being perfect with things and practice being as sharp as possible, and we should be able to get back to playing at a high level."

"We're excited about where we stand right now," Manning added, "excited about this final stretch of the season. It should be fun."