By Curt Macysyn
Just because the Washington Redskins (4-6) have the look of another NFC also ran, does not mean they do not have the capacity to beat the New York Giants (5-5). They do. But for the Redskins to actually pull off an upset at home will require a fair amount of self-inflicted wounds by Big Blue. Essentially the Giants have to guard against beating themselves, as they look to take control of the NFC east.
In their second year under head coach Jay Gruden, the Redskins have done a great job of teasing the fan base this season. After splitting their first four games of the 2015 season, including a 32-21 loss to the Giants on Sept. 24, the Redskins then lost two in a row, and their season record dropped to 2-4. A one-point win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers raised hopes that were dashed by a blowout loss to the New England Patriots one week later.
Washington then hammered the New Orleans Saints 47-14, which got the fan base excited and Rob Ryan fired, neither of which should be a surprise to those who closely follow the NFL. This past Sunday’s game against the undefeated Carolina Panthers was seen a test of the Redskins readiness to compete for the division title. Unfortunately for the ‘Skins, the 44-16 loss highlighted the weaknesses of their squad, and it placed the team on the edge of the playoff cliff, as the Redskins now sport a 4-6 mark coming into this week’s match-up.
Redskins on Offense:
Kirk Cousins is a fourth-year pro from Michigan State, who took over the quarterback position full-time this season. Cousins completes 68 percent of his passes, and he has 15 touchdowns versus 10 interceptions on the campaign. The Giants have made the former Spartan signal caller’s life miserable with six interceptions in the last two games that Cousins started against them.
There is not much bite to the Redskins rushing attack these days with Alfred Morris (3.6 yards per carry) and Matt Jones (3.7 yards per carry) each averaging less than four yards per carry. The duo has only three rushing touchdowns this season, all by Jones. While the Giants do not have a stout run defense, keep in mind that the Redskins ran the ball 12 times for 14 yards on Sunday against the Panthers.
Third-year tight end Jordan Reed is finally coming into his own with 47 receptions and six touchdown grabs on the season. Reed has become Cousins’ most reliable target, although diminutive rookie Jamison Crowder (Duke) has 43 receptions on his own. DeSean Jackson has not been as much of a thorn in the side of the Giants since donning the Redskins uniform. Jackson caught his first touchdown of the season against the Panthers and has only ten catches over the entire year.
Efficient Pierre Garcon remains a veteran presence in the receiving corps for Washington and leads the team with 473 receiving yards. Garcon has 46 catches in 71 targets with three touchdown catches. Overall, there does not exist a wow factor on the ‘Skins offense, so the Giants must simply play mistake-free football.
Redskins on Defense:
If you thought the Redskins were bland on offense, well the defense does not get much livelier. The Redskins pass rush is almost as inept as the Giants, as Ryan Kerrigan leads the team with 4.5 sacks on the season. Overall, Washington has 17 quarterback sacks on the year.
Former Buccaneers castoff Dashon Goldson leads the Redskins in tackles with 79, but Goldson’s (-8.2) grade by Pro Football Focus, ranks ahead of only the Giants Landon Collins (-9.1) and his teammate Trenton Robinson (-11.2) of the 83 safeties who have been given grades.
Versatile Chris Baker hides under the radar, but he is probably Washington’s best defender with a (+21.0) grade by Pro Football Focus. Baker has four sacks on the year. Combustible Breshaud Breeland is the Redskins best cover corner, so he draws the short straw against Odell Beckham. Breeland has a respectable (+6.6) grade by Pro Football Focus.
Redskins Players to Watch
Breeland can be an agitator, as can the Giants Beckham, and expect them to be quite familiar with each other on Sunday. If Beckham can keep his cool, Giants quarterback Eli Manning should be able to have time in the pocket to go vertical.
With Prince Amukamara returning from injury, it would be hard to see the Redskins passing attack doing much damage against the Giants cornerbacks. But tight end Jordan Reed has been having a career year so far, and the Giants safeties have been a hot mess lately. Look for Cousins to try and hit some seam routes to exploit Reed against Landon Collins and Brandon Meriweather.
Overall, everything points to a Giants victory this Sunday. Big Blue has more talent than the Redskins do at this point, and the Tom Coughlin – Jay Gruden coaching match-up is actually a mismatch. If New York plays crisp and error-free, then they will come home with a much needed division win.
Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past four seasons for Examiner.com, and he is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA). Born and raised in New Jersey, Curt attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, N.J. and is a graduate of Rutgers University – New Brunswick. Follow him on Twitter @CurtMac23 for the latest NFL and New York Giants news.