By Curt Macysyn
The New York Giants (10-5) entered Week 16 looking to clinch a playoff berth, but things got off to a bumpy start with a 24-19 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night. Even so, there were a plethora of playoff opportunities for New York, and the team hit pay dirt when the New Orleans Saints downed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday. The Bucs’ loss clinched a Wild Card playoff berth for the G-Men.
Meanwhile, the Washington Redskins (8-6-1) are still alive in the playoff race. But a loss to Big Blue would likely end any possibility for the post-season for Washington. The Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers are also in the hunt, so the Redskins will also be doing some scoreboard watching at FedEx Field.
Washington Redskins Season Record: 8-6-1
Washington started out slowly and opened up the season with two straight losses. The Redskins beat the Giants 29-27 at MetLife Stadium on Sept. 25, which jump started a four-game winning streak. Inconsistent play has plagued the Redskins this year, including an ugly 27-27 tie in London against the Cincinnati Bengals. Since the tie, the team has gone 4-3 in the seven games, which included a signature win against the Green Bay Packers (42-24) and a lethargic 26-15 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Monday Night Football.
Redskins on Offense:
Behind quarterback Kirk Cousins, Washington has proven to be a high-powered offense. The team ranks third in the NFL, averaging 411.3 total yards per game. The passing game has been stellar this year, and it rates second in the NFL with a 300.8 passing yards per game. Cousins completes 67.3 percent of his passes, and he has thrown for 4,630 yards this season. A good aerial attack against the Giants will allow Cousins to surpass 5,000 yard passing this year.
Cousins has a multitude of options in the passing game. Both Pierre Garcon (945 yards) and DeSean Jackson (971 yards) can surpass 1,000 receiving yards against the Giants. Garcon has three touchdown catches while Jackson, who saves his best for the Giants, has four TD grabs. Underrated Jamison Crowder has 65 catches and seven touchdown catches, which leads the team. Tight end Jordan Reed has been dealing with a shoulder injury, but he has accumulated 61 catches and five touchdowns. Veteran Vernon Davis has 42 catches behind Reed with two TDs.
The Redskins have moved from Matt Jones to rookie Rob Kelley at the running back position. Jones had ball security issues, so Kelley became the starter during Week 8 in London. He has 671 rushing yards this year, and he averages 4.3 yards per carry.
Redskins on Defense:
Washington’s defense used to be the domain of Brian Orakpo, but he took his services to Tennessee. Inside linebacker Mason Foster has become the team’s tackling leader with 107 total tackles from his inside linebacker position. Little known Will Compton has put together back-to-back stellar seasons, and he has 103 total tackles this year. Steady Ryan Kerrigan is still the team’s best edge rusher with 11 sacks and two forced fumbles.
Everyone wants to talk about Josh Norman—especially Josh Norman—but he may not be the best cornerback on his own team. Bashaud Breeland has 68 tackles, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and a quarterback sack.
Despite some gaudy statistics, the Redskins are defensive bottom feeders. They rank 29th in the league in total yards, giving up 380.9 yards per game. The Giants may want to get Paul Perkins involved early, as Washington’s rush defense is very suspect. They rank 27th in the league, as they give up 117 yards per game on the ground.
Players to Watch: Kirk Cousins and Josh Norman
As Kirk Cousins goes, so go the Redskins. Cousins has gone from an afterthought to Robert Griffin III to a franchise quarterback. He had 280 passing yards and two touchdowns against the G-Men in Week 3, so he needs to play a clean game. With so many receiving options at his disposal, Cousins will pick apart a defense if given time in the pocket.
Josh Norman is having a better statistical season than last year. He already has 62 tackles versus 56 tackles all of last season. Norman has three interceptions and is credited with 18 passes defended. We will likely see Norman play match-up against Odell Beckham Jr., hopefully without incident this time around.
It is not imperative that Giants win this contest, but New York would definitely like to knock the Redskins out of the post season. Don’t expect Ben McAdoo to empty the playbook to beat the ‘Skins, however. It will be interesting to see how long players like Olivier Vernon, Janoris Jenkins (if he plays) and Damon Harrison stay in the game for Big Blue. The Giants may feel the need to rest their veteran players, so the game may resemble a preseason contest in that regard. A Redskins’ win does not necessarily get them into the post-season, so that could be a cruel twist to this game.