The game of the day in Week 13 is in our nation’s capital: The 10-1 Giants take on their division rival, the 7-4 Washington Redskins. After New York buried the Skins in Week One of the season to the tune of a 16-7 drubbing (score was much closer than the actual game was), many thought that new coach Jim Zorn was in over his head and the Skins were facing a four-to-five win season. Fast forward to the midpoint of the season and Washington was 6-2 with wins over the Eagles, Saints, and Cowboys. “Hog fever” was in the air.
Flip to the other side of the field and you have the defending Super Bowl Champions, the New York Giants. After playing out an easy first six weeks to the season, the Giants dove right into its meat and potatoes of the schedule and have beaten the likes of Pittsburgh, Philly, Dallas (albeit without Romo), Arizona, and Baltimore over the past five weeks.
No slouches in that bunch, and the Giants have done it in a variety of ways: on the ground with one of, if not, the best running game in the NFL and through the air when called upon to do so.
So as we head into this big game on Sunday, which can either boost the chances of the Redskins making the playoffs or put them on the precipice of being out, or allow New York to move one step closer to home field advantage throughout, who has the edge?
Even with Sean Taylor’s pre game induction into the Ring Of Fame for the Skins, and news of the absurd self inflicted gun shot wound that Plaxico Burress (already ruled out with a hamstring injury) sustained at a night club last night, look for the Giants to pull out a seven to 10 point victory and severely hurt the Skins’ chances of making the postseason in 2008.
On defense, the Giants will focus on taking RB Clinton Portis out of the game. They’ve done this against other top running backs—Marion Barber, Brian Westbrook, McGahee, etc.—and will be able to do it once again on Sunday.
Without the threat of Portis, who’s the most important player to that offense, the Skins will need to rely more heavily on Jason Campbell. If other big recent games (Pittsburgh, Dallas) is any indication of what will transpire on Sunday, this doesn’t bode well for Washington. Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will surely have a game plan intact to force Campbell into difficult throws and passing situations and the Giants opportunistic secondary will force a few take aways.
On offense, even without the much maligned Burress, the Giants will still be able to move the ball against a banged up Skins’ defense. It’s not 100 percent certain whether Jacobs or Bradshaw will play, but if one (or both) can’t go, the Giants will need to do a little more in the passing game, which is something they did last Sunday in their win over Arizona.
Look for RB Ward to be steady, if anything, and provide the necessary balance to the offense so that Manning can target WR Steve Smith, TE Kevin Boss, and possibly WR Sinorice Moss more down the middle of the field. The Skins make it near impossible to beat them with the deep pass because they like to line up S LaRon Landry 30 yards deep in order to prevent the big play, so don’t expect WR Domenik Hixon (Burress’ replacement) to get deep for any 50+ yard pass plays.
So in a game that is quite close in terms of talent on the field, due in large part to injuries and the absence to some of the key players for the Giants, look for coaching and Manning to be the deciding factors in the game. Also, look for Eli to outplay Washington’s signal caller in a tight, low scoring NFC East battle.