A division rivalry is always a big game, but when first place is on the line, the games mean so much more. With the NFC East anyone’s division, the Redskins and Giants will match up Sunday with a chance to take over first place. Who will emerge victorious on Sunday? Stay tuned for Overtime’s comprehensive game preview.
A few years ago, we would’ve been shocked if anyone else was quarterbacking the Washington Redskins but Robert Griffin III. But RG3 has sat on the bench in every game this season while Kirk Cousins has taken over the starting job in a big way. He has completed 68.5% of his passes for 2,485 yards and a 15-10 TD-INT rate, good for a passer rating of a good-but-not-great 89.6. On the other hand, he has played much better in the last couple of weeks, making him a danger for the Giants. But the Giants are set with Eli Manning under center. Manning has had a fantastic season thus far, completing 64.6% of his passes for 2,700 yards, a stellar 21-6 TD-INT ratio, and a passer rating of 96.9. Cousins is improving, but Manning’s Giants have an edge here.
The Redskins came into this season seemingly set at running back with stud Alfred Morris leading the way. But Morris has had an uncharacteristically poor 2015 campaign; the power back only has 112 carries for a very modest 404 yards and no touchdowns. Backups Matt Jones and Chris Thompson have been better for Washington; they collectively average 4.5 yards per carry. The Giants will lean on their 4-headed running back by committee approach. While none of Rashad Jennings, Shane Vereen, Orleans Darkwa, or Andre Williams stand out individually, as a whole they contribute for the G-Men. These two teams are pass-heavy, but whoever has the better ground performance will undoubtedly win on Sunday.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:
Both the Giants and Redskins have very dangerous receiving options. For Big Blue, it all revolves around Odell Beckham Jr. OBJ has caught 63 passes for 863 yards and 8 touchdowns, an amazing body of work. Rueben Randle and Dwayne Harris have been reliable secondary options (combined 64 catches for 779 yards and 7 touchdowns), and returning Giant Hakeem Nicks could help out immensely in the Red Zone. Tight End Larry Donnell will likely miss another game; undrafted Will Tye has been serviceable in his stead. But the Redskins have just as deep a core of pass-catchers. Noted Giants killer DeSean Jackson is back and is a major-league deep threat, as is Pierre Garcon. Tight End Jordan Reed is difficult to stop; he has 6 touchdowns and leads the Redskins in receptions. Shifty 5’8″ rookie Jamison Crowder and running backs Jones and Thompson are solid secondary options for Cousins to throw to. But with the Redskins secondary in shambles, look for Beckham Jr. to have a field day versus the Redskins on Sunday.
Injuries have wrecked the Redskins offensive line this season; they are missing their starting center and left guard. In their place, the subs have been a mixed bag. Left tackle Trent Williams is still solid but is getting older, sub interior linemen Spencer Long and Josh LeRibeus have played like subs, and the right side of the line is young and talented, but also very inconsistent. The Giants’ O-Line has also been up and down this season. While Ereck Flowers has been as good as to be expected of a rookie left tackle and interior linemen Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg have been among the best at their position, the right side has failed to protect Manning or generate space for the running backs. And with Pugh and Richburg questionable for Sunday, these two lines look mediocre and evenly matched.
Neither the Giants nor Redskins have dominant defensive lines, but they are slowly improving. For the Giants, the return of Jason Pierre-Paul has improved the entire defense. Pierre-Paul’s pressure is an element that the Giants were missing early on in the season. JPP and Robert Ayers Jr. are a solid pass rushing duo that can also stop the run efficiently. Cullen Jenkins, Markus Kuhn, and Jay Bromley are okay in the middle, but the loss of Jonathan Hankins really hurts the defensive tackles as a whole. Rotational ends Damontre’ Moore, Kerry Wynn, and George Selvie run hot and cold in applying pressure and QB hits. The Redskins only have 17 sacks on the year and struggle to stop the run. Ends Chris Baker and Jason Hatcher have combined for just 5.0 sacks, and nose tackles Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton and Kedric Golston haven’t been stopping the run. The Redskins like to generate pressure with their linebackers; they have accounted for 9 of the Redskins’ total sacks.
The Redskins have a solid linebacking corps. Keenan Robinson and Perry Riley Jr. lead the way in the middle with a combined 93 tackles. Ryan Kerrigan, a former first-round pick, is the Redskins’ top pass-rusher with his 4.5 sacks. Trent Murphy and Preston Smith team up as the SAM; they have a combined 4.5 sacks as well. The Giants’ O-Line will need to look out for linebacker blitzes on Sunday. The Giants have made it by with a suspect linebacker group each week due to injuries. Jasper Brinkley and Uani ‘Unga split the MIKE duties in the absence of Jon Beason, and Devon Kennard is the Giants’ most complete LB; he has 48 tackles and a knack for coming through in the clutch. J.T. Thomas III is questionable for Sunday. If he can’t go, Jonathan Casillas will fill in.
Injuries in the secondary have been a common theme for both of these teams, but the Giants are the healthier team right now. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has been a shutdown corner this year (3 interceptions), and the likely return of his partner Prince Amukamara will be a huge boost. Safeties Landon Collins, Brandon Meriweather, and Craig Dahl have been victimized lately. The Giants need better play from their safeties to stay in close ballgames. Depth corners Trevin Wade, Jayron Hosley, and Trumaine McBride have a surprising 4 interceptions. Meanwhile, Washington is in dire straits after losing its number one corner, Chris Culliver, right before a matchup against Odell Beckham Jr. In his place, Bashaud Breeland, Kysheon Jarrett, and ex-Giant Will Blackmon will have to step up. Due to nagging injuries to safeties Dashon Goldson and Trenton Robinson, longtime corner DeAngelo Hall has temporarily moved to safety, a help for his old knees. The injuries to the Redskins’ secondary will be too much for them to overcome on Sunday.
The Giants’s special teams have been shockingly steady this season, with the trio of kicker Josh Brown, punter Brad Wing, and snapper Zak DeOssie as consistent as ever. Return man Dwayne Harris is electric, and the coverage teams have improved exponentially. The Redskins made a midseason change at kicker, with Dustin Hopkins replacing Kai Forbath, and it has worked out for the best. Punter Tress Way has a big leg, as his 46.1 gross average can attest. Snapper Nick Sundberg has been here for 6 years, so he must be doing something right. The Redskins use Rashad Ross (25.2 average, 1 touchdown) on kick returns and Jamison Crowder (5.2 average) on punts.
While the Giants don’t have an overwhelming edge in many categories, neither do the Redskins. Washington is banged up right now, but they are a good football team. The key for the Giants is to not show any post-bye-week rust. If the Giants do the things they are capable of doing, this game is theirs for the taking.
Prediction: 34-24 Giants (Record picking Giants games: 8-2)