It may only be Week 3 of the NFL Season, but we may already have our very first must-win game. The New York Giants, sitting at 2-0, have a chance to start the season 3-0 before heading on the road for 2 tough NFC North primetime showdowns, while the Redskins are still looking for their first win; a loss here would likely doom their season.
The individual matchups are headline fodder: Eli Manning against Kirk Cousins, Victor Cruz against DeSean Jackson, and of course Odell Beckham Jr. against Josh Norman. The game will take place at 1:00 on Sunday and can be seen on FOX.
New York Giants: Offense
Somewhat surprisingly, the Giants’ vaunted offensive attack hasn’t quite hit its stride yet. Eli Manning has been his usual consistent self under center, as he leads the NFL in completion percentage and has an excellent 106.9 passer rating. His dangerous receiving corps, led by Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, and Victor Cruz, has been less consistent than expected, but the big-play potential for all 3 weapons is always there.
But as per usual, the Giants need more out of their running backs, tight ends, and offensive line. Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen need to produce in order for the offense to have balance, and so far they have run hot and cold. Tight ends Larry Donnell and Will Tye have been good in the red zone, but lacking for the rest of the time. And the offensive line will be without starter Marshall Newhouse on Sunday, which could be looked at as addition by subtraction in a way.
The Redskins don’t have an excellent defense, which should bode well for the Giants’ attack.
Washington Redskins: Offense
The big story for the Redskins so far has been the regression of QB Kirk Cousins. Cousins took over the NFC East last year and led the Redskins to the playoffs, but he has not looked like himself yet this year; only accumulating a 78.5 passer rating and a 1-3 TD-INT ratio. Cousins needs to step up his game, or he will lose the support of his teammates.
Luckily for Cousins, he’s got the receivers to make him look good. Tight end Jordan Reed is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses, as is DeSean Jackson. Veteran Pierre Garcon still has some spring in his step, and young Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson are eager to contribute. The rushing attack has been largely nonexistent for the ‘Skins, as Matt Jones has just 20 attempts on the year for 85 yards.
New York Giants: Defense
While the Giants’ offense has been a little bit stagnant, the defense has been exceptional. Worst in the league last year in total yardage, the Big Blue Wrecking Crew is 8th in the league so far this year. Yes, it’s very early, but it is safe to say that the Giants’ defense has progressed leaps and bounds over last year’s squad.
Defensive linemen Olivier Vernon, Jason Pierre-Paul, Damon Harrison, and Jonathan Hankins have yet to notch a sack, but they have always been in the quarterback’s face wreaking havoc. The Giants have a good group of linebackers, led by coverage men Jonathan Casillias and Keenan Robinson, as well as run-stuffers Devon Kennard and Kelvin Sheppard.
But the biggest improvement has been in the secondary for the Giants. Frequently deploying a nickel or dime set, the Giants have utilized the talents of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Janoris Jenkins, and Eli Apple to shut down opposing wideouts. Young safeties Landon Collins and Nat Berhe have also looked significantly better than ever before.
If the Giants can get pressure on Cousins on Sunday, they’ll be in good shape.
Washington Redskins: Defense
The Redskins run an aggressive 3-4 defense with lots of blitzing from their linebackers. Down linemen Ziggy Hood, Cullen Jenkins, and Chris Baker are stout against the run game, and Giants fans know by now how effective Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy are as pass rushers.
The Redskins made a big effort to improve their secondary this offseason, and they succeeded. Acquiring Josh Norman netted the Redskins one of the game’s top corners, as well as allowing Bashaud Breeland and DeAngelo Hall to take on lesser roles, which improves depth. Safety David Bruton Jr. is a sure tackler, which can also be said for Duke Ihenacho and Will Blackmon.
The Redskins defense will hit you hard, but the Giants’ offense should be able to rip off some gains as long as the offensive line is firing on all cylinders.
New York Giants: Special Teams
The Giants’ special teams looked better in Week 2 than it did in Week 1, but there is still room for improvement. Josh Brown was only 3-4 on field goals in his debut last week, Brad Wing has yet to nail a punt inside the 20-yard-line, and snapper Zak DeOssie looks a little rusty.
A big return from Dwayne Harris could be the spark that the Giants need to get their special teams back on track.
Washington Redskins: Special Teams
On the other hand, the Redskins’ special teams have been on point. Kicker Dustin Hopkins is 6-6 on the year, veteran punter Tress Way and snapper Nick Sundberg have been in place for years, and their committee of return men (Jamison Crowder, Will Blackmon, Niles Paul, Chris Thompson) are all dangerous.
The Giants are hot right now, and the Redskins couldn’t look much worse. Despite their vast potential on paper, the ‘Skins just aren’t getting the job done yet, and there’s no indication that they can suddenly right the ship on the road on Sunday. If the Giants can win this game, they’ll be in great shape as they approach a tough part of their schedule.