The Redskins have been dominated by division rival New York for much of the past decade. The Giants have won nine of the past 10 meetings between the two teams, outscoring Washington 242-134.
However, the Redskins are hoping to reverse that trend with a season-opening win in Rex Grossman's first Week 1 start since 2007.
Here are five keys to the game:
1. It’s unfortunate when injuries are one of the bigger storylines, but the Giants have already sent several defensive players to the Injured Reserve and have a few more who will miss Sunday’s game.
Rookie Prince Amukamara, Terrell Thomas, Bruce Johnson and Brian Witherspoon are all missing from New York’s secondary. Linebackers Clint Sintim and Jonathan Goff are both out in addition to defensive end Osi Umenyiora and defensive tackle Marvin Austin. Defensive end Justin Tuck might also miss the game with a neck injury.
The Giants still have enough depth in their secondary to start Corey Webster and Aaron Ross, but Rex Grossman’s job became a whole lot easier without Umenyiora chasing him. Umenyiora has eight sacks and four forced fumbles in 13 career games against Washington.
Jason Pierre-Paul and a healthy Tuck will be enough of a chore for the Redskins offensive line, and it’s up to Grossman to test the depleted secondary early with quick strikes.
If Grossman can establish a rhythm early, it will help offset the pressure New York uses to disrupt opposing offenses.
2. If you’re looking for a reason as to why the Giants have dominated the Redskins so thoroughly in recent years, here’s an answer. In the past 10 meetings between New York and Washington, the Giants have rushed for 1,409 yards.
With their upgraded defensive line, the Redskins have to find a way to turn the tables on Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw. They gave up 4.6 yards per carry last season and they made it an emphasis to improve at the point of attack.
What better way to see if they’re up to the challenge than a matchup against a team who has routinely stolen their lunch money for years?
3. If the goal on defense is to win the battle in the trenches, the No. 1 priority on the other side of the ball is to get the ground game untracked.
After suffering through a pair of seasons without a healthy group of running backs, the Redskins appear to have stumbled across one of the NFL’s best-kept secrets in Tim Hightower. The former Cardinal will team up with Ryan Torain and rookie speedster Roy Helu to give the Redskins the best backfield they’ve had in quite some time.
There are some questions. Can Hightower handle 20 touches a game? Will Torain finally be able to get healthy and contribute each and every week? How soon will Helu adjust to the pro game?
Of course all those questions will be laid to rest if any one of the trio breaks out on Sunday. Against an injury-ravaged Giants defense, you have to like their chances.
4. Obviously, winning the turnover battle drastically increases the Redskins chances at winning, but it can’t be stressed enough with Grossman at the helm.
He’s thrown 40 touchdowns and 40 interceptions in his career, and in four games with the Redskins in 2010 he turned the ball over eight times. Quarterbacks who average two turnovers per game don’t usually keep their starting job, so Grossman needs to prove his preseason efficiency wasn’t a mirage.
5. The other three NFC East teams have playmakers on offense. For the Giants, Hakeem Nicks has developed into a top-flight big target and Bradshaw is coming off a 1,000-yard season where he ripped off 13 runs of 20 or more yards.
At first glance, it’s difficult to identify one of those offensive playmakers for the Redskins. Helu and Hightower had some big runs in the preseason, but neither will be mistaken for a DeSean Jackson or LeSean McCoy.
Washington’s best chance at producing some fireworks might be Anthony Armstrong. The receiver’s blazing speed helped him average 19.8 yards per catch in 2010, third most among wide outs with 20 catches or more.
Now that he’s not in a starting role, the Redskins can get creative and find ways to maximize every touch he receives against the depleted Giants secondary.