This may be the most important week 3 football game ever. With the Dallas Cowboys vulnerable after losing Tony Romo and Dez Bryant to injury and the Eagles stuck in neutral, both the Washington Redskins and New York Giants need to win this game desperately. Of course, only one of these teams can emerge victorious. But who will it be? Here’s Overtime’s Giants-Redskins preview.
Both teams have a quarterback concern this week, even though Eli Manning and Kirk Cousins seem to be safe bets most weeks. For the Giants, Manning is coming off of two decent statistical weeks, but his boneheaded blunders in the 4th quarter have cost his team two easy victories. Fresh off of an $84 million extension, Eli needs a win on his home turf. Cousins entered 2015 as the undisputed starter for the first time in his young career. After an uneven week one, in which the ‘Skins lost and Cousins had a 68.8 QBR, Captain Kirk settled down and tore apart the tough Rams defense to the tune of a 110.3 QBR. Colt McCoy and Robert Griffin III back up the injury-prone Cousins in that order. This may not be the most popular pick right now, but I know that Eli Manning is a much smarter quarterback than what he has shown in the last two weeks, and his experience gives the Giants an edge over Cousins’ Redskins.
With the league’s highest rushing total, I don’t think anyone would be stupid enough to bet against the Alfred Morris-led ‘Skins. Morris is having a fine season thus far (180 yards, 4.2 AVG), but rookie Matt Jones has been just as good, scoring 2 touchdowns and averaging 6.0 yards per carry. Behind a steady O-Line, the Redskins are set on the ground. Meanwhile, Big Blue is coming off of a poor rushing performance versus the Falcons. Starter Rashad Jennings only garnered 12 yards on 9 carries, while being leapfrogged by Shane Vereen for the majority of the second half. Vereen had a huge week versus Atlanta, catching 8 balls for 70+ yards. When combined with his rushing yards, Vereen had over 100 all-purpose yards. Andre Williams has not seen much time early, but has a 4.8 AVG and a long of 35. It would take a miracle for the Giants to outrush the Redskins this week.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:
Both the Giants and the Redskins are missing a big playmaker from the receiving corps. For the G-Men, Victor Cruz will sit for the third straight week with a calf injury. Expect his return in Week 4 though. DeSean Jackson is out for Washington with a hamstring injury as well. In their stead, the Giants will rely heavily on Odell Beckham Jr. and Rueben Randle. Beckham has been great so far, while Randle has been impossible to notice in these first two games. Watch for Dwayne Harris and Geremy Davis to have a larger impact for Big Blue as well. Larry Donnell could use a more consistent performance after two average weeks. The Redskins will target Pierre Garcon, Andre Roberts, and Ryan Grant without Jackson. The Giants know that Garcon can be a big-play threat. Tight end Jordan Reed is starting due to the injury to Niles Paul. Injuries have affected both of these teams to the point where they are quite even in week 3.
The Redskins have one of the NFL’s better offensive lines. Trent Williams is still an upper-echelon blind-side blocker, while Kory Lichtensteigher holds down the fort at center. Rookie Brandon Scherff has been impressive at right guard, his counterpart Shawn Lauvao is sturdy on the left. Right tackle Morgan Moses is solid as well. This group makes holes for Morris and Jones week in and week out. As for the Giants, they will be missing Ereck Flowers barring an unexpected development due to an ankle injury. Justin Pugh is a capable left tackle, but this will be his first start at such a critical position. John Jerry is a top run blocker but a porous pass blocker at left guard. Weston Richburg, Geoff Schwartz, and Marshall Newhouse have been surprisingly good at center, right guard, and right tackle, but are still prone to the occasional penalty flag. The Redskins’ starting 5 has the edge this time around.
The Redskins know how to build a defensive line. Jason Hatcher was a high-priced free agent and is a nuisance to deal with from a offensive lineman’s perspective. Stephen Paea is a good left end, and Terence “Pot Roast” Knighton is still a premier nose tackle. Backups Ricky Jean-Francois, Kedric Golston and Chris Baker are solid options off the bench. The Giants could be missing Robert Ayers Jr., their best pass-rusher and run stopper in the absence of Jason Pierre-Paul. Ayers is questionable with a hamstring injury. George Selvie, Kerry Wynn, and Damontre Moore are good but not great options that probably won’t scare the Redskins’ stout O-Line. The Giants have a good run-stopping interior with Jonathan Hankins, Cullen Jenkins, Kenrick Ellis, and Jay Bromley plugging the middle, but the lack of an outside pass rush has hurt the Giants immensely through the first two weeks. Don’t expect that to change in week 3.
The return of captain Jon Beason could be the punch in the arm that the Giants’ linebacking corps. needs. Beason will probably sit out obvious passing downs, but his leadership is invaluable. Devon Kennard has been a standout in these first two weeks; here’s to hoping he gets some support from his linebacking comrades. J.T. Thomas III hasn’t made a major impact yet, and Uani’ Unga could still play a large role until Beason is fully healthy. Washington counts on outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan for a pass rushing presence and inside backers Perry Riley Jr. and Keenan Robinson to stop the run. Trent Murphy is a new starter on the right outside linebacker spot. The Redskins’ tacklers are strong at the point of attack, giving them a slight edge over the still-meshing Giants linebackers.
The Giants will be missing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, their number 1 corner, versus the Redskins due to a concussion. In his place Prince Amukamara is more than capable, but across from him Jayron Hosley is anything but. Hosley needs a big week in his first test as a starter. Trumaine McBride is stellar in the slot. Safeties Landon Collins and Brandon Meriweather have performed above expectations, but are still a bit shaky. For Washington, Chris Culliver is a good corner, but not really a true number 1. He’s flanked by DeAngelo Hall, but it is clear that Hall has lost a step in this his 12th NFL season. Bashaud Breeman is an intriguing slot corner, and ex-Giant Will Blackmon is a reliable backup. Safeties Dashon Goldson and Trenton Robinson are not flashy, but get the job done. The loss of Rodgers-Cromartie really hurts the Giants. I would normally be inclined to give the Giants the edge here, but the loss of DRC could be difficult to overcome. Let’s call it even this week.
Seriously, did anyone expect the Giants’ special teams to be as good as they’ve been? Sure, Josh Brown and Zak DeOssie are money at kicker and snapper, but punter Brad Wing has far exceeded expectations at punter and the coverage units have greatly improved. Dwayne Harris has also been an outstanding returner. Washington recently cut kicker Kai Forbath, meaning Dustin Hopkins now handles field goal duties. His inexperience could benefit the Giants. Punter and kickoff specialist Tress Way has a big leg but a poor net average. Snapper Nick Sundberg is steady. Rookie receivers Rashad Ross and Jamison Crowder handle kickoff and punt return duties, with Andre Roberts serving as a veteran option. The Giants shockingly have one of football’s best special teams units, giving them the edge over the ‘Skins.
Despite most positional groups favoring the Redskins or even, I have faith that the Giants will get over the hump this week versus the Redskins. Facing a divisional rival at home in a virtual must-win this early should energize the team. Lost in the shuffle is that the Giants did have 10-point leads in the 4th quarter for the past two weeks. This team may be broken at times, but it still has enough talent to win some ballgames.
Prediction: 23-20 Giants