Following a crucial 37-34 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in week 14, the New York Giants head into a week 15 matchup with the Washington Redskins at 7-6 and in control of the NFC East. Still riding a wave of momentum created in a last second loss to the Green Bay Packers two weeks ago, Big Blue will look to avenge a week one loss to the Redskins and further strengthen their grasp on an NFC playoff spot.
In order to ensure that their week 17 game against Dallas crowns an NFC East champion, the Giants will have to win one of their next two games (assuming, of course, Dallas wins theirs). And despite a paramount of recent historical success against the Redskins, these rivalry games are generally unpredictable. In other words, throw the team records right out the window.
Use Jake Ballard to Exploit DeJon Gomes
As Redskins 101 editor Justin Fiore alluded to in “Insider Report,” Gomes is making only his second NFL start and has already had quite a bit of trouble containing a big-bodied tight end.
Last week, the Redskins gave up 160 yards to New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski and another 84 yards to Aaron Hernandez. And while the Giants may not share the same sort of talent or depth at tight end with the Pats, Ballard’s play has been quite impressive thus far, and far above the league average.
Ballard isn’t exactly fleet of foot, but he runs great routes and finds gaps in zone coverage. And with LaRon Landry now out for the season, and Washington’s secondary still struggling in the zone, Eli Manning, Ballard & Co. should have a field day so long as they don’t get away from what they’ve done up until this point.
Contain Roy Helu on the Edges
The Redskins offense has been nearly non-existent all season, but one true bright spot has been the play of rookie running back Roy Helu.
Helu has gained 100+ yards in each of the last three games, becoming the first rookie in Redskins franchise history to accomplish that feat, and has done so primarily along the edges. Accordingly, the onus of containing the quick-footed Helu will fall on linebackers Michael Boley and Jacquian Williams.
Keep Helu in check, force Rex Grossman to beat you. That’s a winning formula.
Keep Constant Pressure on Redskins’ Tackles with DE’s Only
Everyone wants to scream “blitz! blitz!” but it’s something the Giants may not have to do early in this game. The Redskins will be without Trent Williams (suspension) and Jammal Brown (groin), which means the starting tackles will likely be rookie Willie Smith (replacing Sean Locklear) and Tyler Polumbus. In other words, Jason Pierre-Paul, Dave Tollefson and (possibly) Justin Tuck should be licking their chops.
13 games into the season, it’s become obvious by now the Giants are trying to create as much pressure as they can with a four-man rush. This Sunday, that may be much more successful than it has been in the past, as Big Blue draws a clearly favorable matchup.
The defensive ends need to keep their foot on the gas, and if the linebackers can contain Helu as alluded to above, it will force Grossman to throw. Once that happens, the Giants can feast away on young and below-average tackles, and a rookie running back who isn’t very good in pass protection.
THE GIANTS WILL WIN THIS GAME IF…
They can keep Helu from breaking off big runs and avoid making costly mistakes. They’re a much more talented team than the Redskins and should, on paper, win this game handily. The only way Washington stays in this is if the Giants turn the ball over, give up big plays and have mental lapses. So long as they keep their head in this, play fundamental football and avoid the big mistakes that have plagued them this season, they should run away with it. It will be important to focus on missed tackles. If those are limited, you can almost guarantee the big play is also limited.
BIG GAME CANDIDATE – WR Mario Manningham
It’s been a while since Super Mario had a huge game, and he’s due. Expect the Redskins to double-team Hakeem Nicks as all other opponents have this year, and for the defense to pay closer attention to Ballard as the game moves along. If the Giants attack Gomes as we noted earlier, it should open things up for Cruz and Manningham, with Mario able to get free over the top for, what we assume, will be more than a handful of big plays.
No one should under-estimate the significance of this game for the Giants. A win on Sunday ensures, no matter what happens against the New York Jets, that week 17 against Dallas will determine the NFC East champion.
As important as it is for the Giants, the Redskins will embrace the role of spoiler. They know that a victory on Sunday puts that much more pressure on Big Blue and places them in a rather precarious situation over the final two weeks of the season. They’ll come in guns blazing, ready to give New York absolutely everything they’ve got.
That said, the Giants understand the situation they’re in and it’s doubtful a single player in that locker-room doesn’t understand the significance of this game. They’ll come out focus and ready to take care of business the Big Blue way.
Giants 30, Redskins 17