At the beginning of the year, this looked like it would shape up as another late-season game between a pair of division also-rans. But the winner of next week’s Giants-Redskins clash will likely emerge with at least a share of the NFC East lead with five games remaining in the season. New York will try to take a stranglehold on first place, while Washington will aim to avenge a Week 3 loss, when the two clash at FedEx Field (Sunday, Nov. 29, at 1:00 PM Eastern).
This season, winning the NFC East won’t be a particularly impressive feat, akin to winning a “most medium-sized pumpkin contest.” But don’t tell that to these two teams: for Washington, playoff appearances have been few and far between this millennium, while New York is ready to shock the world (and probably the Patriots) one more time.
Each team enters this week coming off its best game of the year. The Giants head into their bye on the heels of a 27-26 loss to the undefeated Patriots and the Redskins will visit the also undefeated Panthers looking to build off a 47-14 ass kicking of the Saints.
Washington should be favored heading into this game, based solely on their dominance at home. Jay Gruden’s squad is 4-1 playing in Landover, winning four straight after dropping the opener to the Dolphins. Washington is averaging 27 points a game at home and surrendering just 18.2. But the team is just following its quarterback’s lead: in Kirk Cousins’ first full year as the starter, he’s posted a 112.8 QB rating at home, as opposed to a 66.3 rating on the road.
The Redskins will need another great game from Cousins in this one if they want to avoid losing their sixth straight game to the G-men. In their Week 3 matchup, the Giants kept the Washington ground game in check, forcing Cousins to throw the ball 49 times with mixed results. New York had trouble closing out the game (as they often do) but managed to hang on for a 32-21 win.
The Giants’ late game mismanagement has not only cost them games, but has shifted the conversation away from this defense’s ability to generate massive and timely takeaways (like Trumaine McBride’s goal line pick of Tom Brady). They lead the league in takeaways and defensive touchdowns, so despite the number of yards they yield every game (they rank 31st in the league), they’re still a threat to change a game.
But as long as Cousins continues to keep protecting the football, Washington stands a good chance in the rematch. The Redskins’ weakness on defense – stopping the run – happens to be the Giants weakness on offense. (New York is averaging just 3.8 yards per attempt.)
The NFC East may not be good, but they know how to make a race dramatic. It seems only right that the division race should come down to the final weekend again this year, so take the Redskins to slow the Giants’ front-runner pace.
Straight-up pick: Redskins.
(Photo Credit: Keith Allison (Originally uploaded to Flickr)[https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/].)