EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said he’s probably too close to his unit to notice if its collective emotions rise more when facing one of last year’s playoff teams.

He does know about the defense’s pride, though.

“I’m so immersed in the game plan that I can’t see the forest for the trees,” he said. “Outside looking in, you probably could discern those things more easily. But I’ve certainly been proud the way they’ve responded.

“There’s a lot of pride within the group, so when they look at a team that’s regarded as a good football team, they’ve traditionally responded in a way that’s very positive.”

That is especially true this year. The Giants (8-5) on Sunday will face Atlanta (11-2), and have a chance to beat a fourth team that made the postseason last year.

Beating the Falcons won’t come without a challenge, though, as Atlanta has won 10 straight since last season at home, and will want to atone for a 30-20 loss at Carolina last Sunday. But the Giants have excelled at times this year, neutralizing high-powered teams, home or road.

The last eight games are indicative of that. A stretch that started with a 26-3 romp over the 49ers continued with a 38-10 pounding of Green Bay. Last week the Giants handled New Orleans, 52-27.

“These last few weeks, we’ve played good football and we’ve got to continue to do that and keep making strides,” Giants quarterback Eli Manning said. “Everybody has the right mindset and great confidence right now.”

The Giants have won the last three meetings with the Falcons in Georgia.

“We’ve played well when we’ve played there,” New York Coach Tom Coughlin said. “I can’t analyze it a whole lot further than that.”

So the Giants are naturally confident despite a host of injuries that could keep key players, such as running back Ahmad Bradshaw, cornerback Prince Amukamara and safety Kenny Phillips, out of the lineup. Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks is also questionable, given his limited work Thursday with a knee sprain.

But in times of despair, Coughlin knows he can count on the character — and depth — of a team that won the Super Bowl just 10 months ago.

“We’ll call upon all of that,” Coughlin said. “The main thing we need to do is develop consistency in our play and all three levels continuing to support and contribute, and not have one of those days where we step back in an area.

“That’s what we’re trying to emphasize.”