GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -Four years ago, the New York Giants benched Kurt Warner in favor of rookie Eli Manning nine games into the season.
Things have worked out well for both of them since.
Manning returns to the scene of his greatest triumph Sunday when he leads the powerful Giants (9-1) against the Cardinals (7-3). Warner, meanwhile, is having a superb season at the controls of a high-scoring Cardinals team that can clinch its first division title in 33 years this weekend.
The last time Manning played in Arizona, he was the MVP in the Giants' Super Bowl upset of the New England Patriots. He says there will be no time for nostalgia on the return trip.
``I think everybody knows it will be a very different feel about this game,'' he said. ``We're going to be the away team. Obviously, Arizona's home stadium should be loud and everybody will be against us. Different feel, different game, different team.''
l performance set the stage for his strong 2008 season.
``That experience through the playoffs was wonderful obviously for all of us,'' the coach said. ``But for the young quarterback to go through the playoffs and accomplish what he did, and make the plays he made in the fourth quarter in the Super Bowl to win and be recognized as the Super Bowl MVP, I think that's obviously a tremendous boost to anyone's confidence.''
Manning and Coughlin praised Warner for the way he handled losing the Giants' job.
The benching came after Warner struggled mightily in a loss at Arizona, of all places.
``It's one of those situations where you feel like life isn't fair,'' Warner said. ``You feel like you're the best guy for the job. I think probably most people there would admit that I was probably the better quarterback at the time, but it was something they needed to do moving forward. Obviously, it's paid huge dividends for them.''
Warner did not pout or go into open revolt when Coughlin told him of the switch to Manning.
``Any competitor is not happy when you make a change,'' Coughlin said. ``But the way he accepted it, the way he stood tall, the way he supported the young quarterback, the way he continued to work with him, was a class act.''
ldin and Larry Fitzgerald - two of the best receivers in the game - he is having arguably the best season of any NFL quarterback, leading the league in completion percentage (70.9), completions (270) and quarterback rating (105.5). He's second in yards passing (3,155) and touchdowns (20).
Those statistics may startle some, but Warner isn't one of them.
``I'm playing football the way I always feel like I've played football,'' he said. ``I think that's on everybody else to be surprised. I'm not surprised one bit by how I'm playing.''
The game features the two highest-scoring teams in the league in a contrast in styles. The Giants bring the league's best running game, Arizona perhaps the best passing game.
``They're a very good football team. It's hard to find a weakness,'' Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson said.
New York, meanwhile, brings the NFL's No. 2 defense to face Arizona's No. 2 offense.
``We know we'll have our hands full,'' Giants cornerback Aaron Ross said, ``but I think we will stand up to the challenge.''
Brandon Jacobs, first among equals in the trio of strong Giants running backs Warner called ``three beasts,'' tweaked his knee in last week's 30-10 victory over Baltimore. Even without him, New York has a pair of dependable backs in Ahmad Bradshaw and Derrick Ward. The Giants want their running game to eat up time and keep Arizona's offense off the field.
ir offense and defense have similar styles,'' Warner said. ``They want to hit you in the mouth. They want to be very physical. They understand it's a contact sport.''
Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt pointed out two more New York attributes.
``They're road tested, they do a good job on the road, and they've played in big games. They've had success in those big games,'' he said.
Arizona has won seven in a row at home, while the Giants have won five straight overall. The Cardinals can clinch the NFC West with a victory over New York, combined with a San Francisco loss at Dallas and a Seattle loss or tie at home against Washington.
Arizona got an untimely distraction this week when Edgerrin James' agent said the running back wants the team to release him. James has three carries for 5 yards since he was benched in favor of rookie Tim Hightower three games ago.
General manager Rod Graves said the team refuses to even consider letting James go.
The Cardinals see this game and one at Philadelphia on Thanksgiving night as opportunities to prove they are for real.
``We know we have a long way to go,'' Warner said, ``but you know nationally and from a bigger picture that nobody really gives us a chance against - I'm not saying the New York Giants but the giants of the NFL. So everything we do from this point forward is about gaining respect.''

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