Proud franchises trying to stay pace in the NFC East will write the latest chapter in their rivalry when the New York Giants take on the Washington Redskins tonight on CBS and the NFL Network. A third loss for either of these 1–2 teams could be a death blow in the division race, with both looking up at unbeaten Philadelphia and both fighting the perception that their best days are long gone.
The loser of this one will be in sole possession of last place in the NFC East. Given the short week and the risk of injury — the Redskins in particular enter this game very banged up — both teams have reduced their practice intensity, which could lead to some sloppiness early on. "Obviously this is a week that I would rather not have a Thursday night game," said Redskins coach Jay Gruden, who lost cornerback DeAngelo Hall and safety Duke Ihenacho to season-ending injuries last week’s loss at Philadelphia and had a total of 17 players listed on Monday's injury report.
New York Giants at Washington Redskins
Kickoff: 8:25 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS/NFL Network
Spread: Washington -3.5
Three Things to Watch
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1. Giants Go Ground-and-Pound
The Giants showed a surprising ability to run the football and impose their will in Sunday's 30–17 win over the Texans. Rashad Jennings' 176 rushing yards were the most by a Giants running back in two years. "One point we ran the same play three times in a row," Giants quarterback Eli Manning said. "They were rolling. They liked it." In all, the Giants amassed 193 yards rushing after mustering only 53 in the opener with Detroit and 81 in the loss to the Cardinals. The Redskins are allowing only 64.7 yards per game on the ground, so it will be interesting to see if the Giants have any luck establishing the run and relieving pressure from Manning's shoulders.
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2. Ball Protection by the Quarterbacks
Simply put, Manning has transformed into a turnover machine, leading the NFL with 27 interceptions last season. But in the win over the Texans, Manning had his first interception-free outing in eight games, dating back to a Nov. 24 loss to Dallas. If Manning protects the football, the Giants are a different team, and a far more dangerous one. Washington's Kirk Cousins, filling in for an injured Robert Griffin III, has been handed this audition and is playing for his future as an NFL starter, either in Washington or somewhere else, and can ill afford any untimely miscues. The quarterback who wins the turnover battle will have a leg up in this one.
3. Will Phil Simms stick to his pledge?
The ongoing controversy over the Redskins nickname found its poster child in CBS broadcaster Phil Simms, who has expressed a reluctance to use the nickname during broadcasts. "My very first thought is it will be ‘Washington’ the whole game," he said earlier this month. But he broke his own pledge last Thursday night, using the term at least three times in a game that didn't even involve Washington. Leaders of the "Change the Mascot" campaign are paying attention, and Simms will be a part of Friday's recaps no matter what he says.
The Giants' temporarily resurgent running game will face a significant obstacle in the Redskins' defensive front, which could force Manning back to the air. And when Manning goes to the air with frequency, bad things have tended to happen lately. For his career, Manning has 16 touchdowns and 17 interceptions against Washington, and if that trend holds, then the home team — whatever Phil Simms wants to call it — will hold serve.