The Redskins head to New York looking to sweep their season series with the Giants for the first time since 1999. Here are five keys to making it happen.
1. With three inexperienced players expected to see extensive playing time on the offensive line, Washington is at a disadvantage trying to protect Rex Grossman. The Giants will be without stalwart defensive end Osi Umenyiora, but Jason Pierre-Paul has been the team’s best pass-rusher anyway.
Pierre-Paul has 12.5 sacks this season and will draw a favorable matchup lining up against either Willie Smith or Sean Locklear. The Redskins’ best bet is to offset the pass rush with a steady dose of Roy Helu, who has rushed for over 100 yards in three straight games.
2. The Giants are typically the team who tries to dictate play with a physical running game, but this season they rank dead last in the league at 85.8 rushing yards per game. However with Brandon Jacobs coming off a 101-yard, two-touchdown performance against Dallas, the Redskins should key on him since he always seems to bring his best when playing Washington.
3. Jacobs is New York’s under-the-radar threat. Eli Manning is anything but. The Giants quarterback has already thrown for over 3,000 yards passing and 20 touchdowns for the seventh straight season. This one might be his most impressive yet.
Manning hasn’t made many mistakes and that’s propelled the Giants to big wins over New England and Dallas. The Redskins took advantage of a rare gaffe in the teams’ first meeting Sept. 11 as Ryan Kerrigan intercepted Manning and returned it for a touchdown to put Washington ahead for good.
Turnovers have been hard to come by for the Redskins, so they may have to settle for limiting Manning. Jim Haslett had his defense generating solid pressure through the first half of the season, but the sacks have recently dried up. If the Redskins can’t disrupt the Giants passing game with a timely pass rush or two, Manning will have a field day.
4. Of course Manning’s receiving corps is far from nondescript. Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks both have over 1,000 receiving yards already and Nicks caught 122 yards worth of passes in Week One against the Redskins.
Injuries have depleted Washington’s secondary as LaRon Landry is out for the year and Oshiomogho Atogwe has struggled through a series of ailments, according to Mike Shanahan. The underwhelming play from starting cornerbacks Josh Wilson and DeAngelo Hall has made matters worse.
Wilson will have to build off a big fourth quarter interception in last week’s game against New England as he and Hall must contain one of the NFL’s best receiving duos to give Washington a chance.
5. With all the emphasis placed on draft positioning, a loss might help the Redskins immensely in the long run. But on Sunday, I wouldn’t expect Washington to come out with any intention other than winning. A victory would validate the efforts put forth by the team over the last few heartbreaking weeks and also let them play spoiler in a tight NFC East race.
Despite a 4-9 record, Washington has played with a purpose throughout most of the year. Why not snag a momentum-building divisional win in December to put the team in a position to finish strong?