- Associated Press - Monday, October 17, 2011

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - Heading into the bye week, the banged-up New York Giants are surprisingly in first place in the NFC East with much-needed reinforcements seemingly on the horizon.

Defensive captain Justin Tuck, Pro Bowl guard Chris Snee, first-round draft pick Prince Amukamara, backup running back Brandon Jacobs and receiver Ramses Barden all might be ready to return when the Giants (4-2) face the Miami Dolphins on Oct. 30.

Tuck guaranteed Sunday that he would be back after missing three straight games with neck and groin injuries, and Snee also felt he would be ready to go after sitting out Sunday’s 27-24 win over the Buffalo Bills.

Amukamara (broken foot), Jacobs (knee) and Barden (ankle) are a little more iffy, but they are close as the Giants prepare to embark on a frightful five-game run that includes games at New England (5-1), at San Francisco (5-1), Philadelphia (2-4), at New Orleans (4-2) and Green Bay (6-0) after the game vs. Miami. That’s a combined 22-8 record.

“I think it will be a nice boost in the arm,” coach Tom Coughlin said Monday. “I don’t know exactly when the individuals will be cleared, but hopefully we’ll be in a position where they are ready to go when we’re talking game week and we get closer to our next opponent.”

While they are in first place, the Giants have a lot of areas that need to be fixed heading into the final 10-game stretch if they are to get back to the playoffs for the first time in three years.

The running game took a much needed step forward this past weekend as Ahmad Bradshaw rushed for 104 yards and three touchdowns, becoming the team’s first back to gain 100 yards this season.

Third-down conversions improved to 45 percent on Sunday, but for the season, Eli Manning and Co. are converting at a dismal 31 percent.

A week after turning the ball over three times in an embarrassing loss to Seattle, the offense was flawless against the NFL’s top takeaway team.

“Do I think it is a finished product,” veteran offensive lineman David Diehl asked Monday. “No. I know that we have the attitude that we are going to continue to work and make sure that it becomes one of the strengths of our offense because it needs to be.”

A bigger concern is the play of the defense, particularly against the run.

Buffalo rushed for 155 yards, with Fred Jackson gaining 121. Most came on an 80-yard run on which he went through the line in a split second and only had aging Deon Grant to beat for a touchdown. It was not a match.

“You can’t take that one run out and I wish we could but in terms of the rest of the game, I think we were pretty sound in terms of responsibility and everybody knowing where they were supposed to be,” said linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka, who has been playing a lot of end in recent weeks with Tuck out.

“That was the only issue coming into the game. It wasn’t that people couldn’t make plays, it was that some responsibilities were mixed up coming in.”

The statistics after six games reflect that. Opponents are averaging 127.7 yards rushing and nearly 374 yards in total offense.

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