The NFL team that finds itself out of the playoff hunt is presented with three options in its remaining games: give up entirely, play for pride, or try to make things miserable for those you still have a shot at making something of their season.
With the Redskins win Sunday on the road against the Jaguars and second half rally the week before in Dallas, it's obvious that the first option wasn't the one taken by Mike Shanahan, even if the benching of Donovan McNabb might have suggested as much to some observers.
In their final regular season game, the Redskins can not only redeem one of the team's more lackadaisical outings of the season - a 31-7 loss in the New Meadowlands on Dec. 5 - but also extinguish the Giants' dwindling hopes of reaching the playoffs. New York's decisive loss to the Packers cost the G-men the ability to control their own destiny to reach the postseason. The Saints clinched a playoff spot on Monday night with a win over the Falcons, meaning that the Giants can only make the postseason if they can beat the Redskins and the Packers lose to the Bears.
The Giants-Redskins and Bears-Packers games both fall in the 4 p.m. timeslot on Sunday, so there's no chance of the Giants discovering beforehand that Green Bay has won and their elimination has been secured. So it's safe to assume the Giants will be playing as though their season depends on it. The Packers did lose their first meeting with the Bears in Chicago earlier this season. And because the Falcons lost yesterday, Chicago still has a chance to secure home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Eli Manning's four interceptions thrown against the Packers Sunday pushed his total to a single-season career high of 24. Despite the streamrolling the Giants did to the Redskins four weeks ago, Eli didn't particularly shine in the decisive New York victory. Eli threw one interception and finished with a 62.3 quarterback rating in the victory.
Mike Shanahan said he remains hopeful that linebacker Brian Orakpo and cornerback Carlos Rogers will play against the Giants. Orakpo missed the win against the Jaguars with a groin injury, while Rogers left in the first quarter of that game with a calf injury. While Rob Jackson played well in Orakpo's place in Jacksonville, the team would assuredly be glad to see Orakpo, the team leader in sacks, on the field in the finale against the Giants. Though getting to Eli Manning will be key, stopping a running game that posted nearly 200 yards on the ground in the first meeting with be of the utmost importance. The Redskins run defense performed well in the win against the Jaguars, but Jacksonville was without lead rusher Maurice Jones-Drew.