This Giants team isn’t like some of the recent Giants teams we’ve seen. These Giants turn it over a lot: 22.4% of their possessions, worst in the NFL. The Redskins defense gets turnovers on 14% of it’s possessions, which is average. If these trends hold, the Redskins should be able to expect to force at least one turnover in each half. They’ll need that edge to beat the Giants, who hold a lot of other advantages in this game.
The turnovers are surprisingly high, as Eli Manning wasn’t sacked in the month of November. The Giants have put an obvious value on protection from power formations and have given Eli a clean pocket to throw from. A problem with this is that the injuries to the Giants receivers have forced Eli to have fewer places to go with the football. The Giants are on the verge of getting WR Steve Smith back from injury, but the Redskins will not have to worry about seeing WR Hakeem Nicks until the Week 17 meeting. Provided Smith is out, the Giants’ number one target is Mario Manningham.
There are a lot of issues with Manningham as a receiver, most amounting to the fact that hes generally unreliable as a player, but Manningham fits their system and runs a couple of routes really well. With Carlos Rogers out, he’s a guy I think the Redskins will struggle to cover. The other thing is that the Giants have been doing a lot of two TE stuff with their receivers out, and while the Redskins are excellent at taking away tight ends because London Fletcher has played to the strong side most of the year, trouble has come from play action passes from two tight end sets: those are usually mismatches waiting to happen.
The Jacksonville Jaguars were able to move the ball on the Giants last week because they got very physical with the Giants’ defensive line in man blocking schemes. Jacksonville’s zone schemes did not work as well. For the Redskins, they should know ahead of time that running their zone stretch game against the Giants DL isn’t going to open up lanes for their backs to run in. They will need to pull linemen, trap their tackles and go right up the middle. Furthermore, the one on one that the Redskins absolutely need to win is Will Montgomery beating the Giants Chris Canty in standard downs and distances with no help. Kory Lichtensteiger and Casey Rabach are both weaknesses in the passing game and need to be able to work together to handle the nose tackles they will be facing and the stunts that the Giants OL loves. I considered recommending Stephon Heyer for the RG job specifically with beating the Giants in mind, because that’s a good match-up against the Giants “planet theory” team identity. Heyer isn’t a prototypical guard, but the Giants are not a prototypical team. If Montgomery can handle this assignment 9 out of 10 times, it won’t be a problem.
Ahmad Bradshaw is such a dangerous weapon for the Giants, and if the Giants are going to score multiple TDs against the Redskins, Bradshaw is likely to account for at least one of them. What worries me about this match-up is that in spite of all their injuries, the Giants OL has been dominant over the Redskins DL in recent years, and this is a year that the Redskins have had issues plugging all the games in run defense. Don’t get me wrong, I think run defense is something the Redskins are good at, but they are good at it because they outnumber you. Fletcher is still a great player, Landry had been a great player, and this is more or less a defense that plays with three defensive tackles instead of two. To run against the Redskins, you have to really move the defensive lineman off the ball. While teams have been able to do that, that makes them more inclined to pass against the Redskins. This week, that matrix might flip, because the Giants already line up in formations that outnumber the 3-4 on the ground. Our OLBs HAVE to beat their TEs on the edge, or this one won’t be competitive in the second half.
On the other hand, this is a week where the Redskins pass defense has a chance to get very, very healthy, and win a game for its offense. The Giants aren’t going to outnumber you going down the field. It’s going to be a lot of two receiver stuff and some three receiver stuff, with emphasis on time for Eli to make his throws to the outside. Historically, the Giants have already been quick to pick on DeAngelo Hall, and they’ll be happy in this one to put Mario Manningham on Hall to the right and go after him 9 times in the first half. It’s happened before. Hall is a guy who has played very well since the Bears game. If he wins that match-up with Manningham, I’m not sure the Giants have a plan B in the passing game. It’s up to DC Jim Haslett to make sure the Giants cannot isolate Bradshaw on Rocky McIntosh in the passing game.
Because of the protection-first schemes of the Giants, this will not be a big blitzing game for the Redskins, which means that it’s going to be a lot of cover-two and cover-three and coverage assignments, and not a whole lot of pressure on Manning in standard downs: the strength of the Giants running game is going to keep the Redskins from loading up on pass rushers. If you can concede that the Redskins aren’t going to get near Manning, you know how important it is for the coverage corners and safeties to win on the outside.
On the other side of the ball, I was impressed by how often the Jaguars receivers won against the Giants corners. Unfortunately for the Redskins, two of the top three Jags receivers have size that the Redskins receivers don’t have have, and the other, Mike Thomas, isn’t particularly similar to any Redskins receiver. Smaller receivers usually don’t match-up against the corners they line up against, but the safeties behind them. The Giants have a weak safety. Deon Grant is their SS starter, because FS Antrel Rolle is so bad. Rolle often finds his way onto the field, and unlike last year when the Redskins refused to attack a depleted secondary, the Redskins must find and attack Rolle whenever the Giants play him. He’s a big vertical play waiting to happen. Please, go after him.
The Giants ask a lot of their corners in coverage, and they’ll let Kenny Phillips match up in man to man against slot receivers. That’s a match-up the Redskins can win, though I doubt the Giants will ever put Phillips on Santana Moss. The Redskins should use their three-step drop passing game in lieu of an edge rushing attack. The pass-run balance should be about 70-30 in terms of the pass, just running enough to keep the defense honest. The Jaguars proved that slant passes work, and can become big plays against the Giants. McNabb is very accurate throwing that slant, something he isn’t with the hook and the curl.
With the loss to the Vikings, the Skins may not be able to beat the Giants just once and limp into the postseason. They’ll likely have to beat them on Sunday to even be alive in playoff contention when week 17 rolls around. I don’t have to tell you that there’s no way that the Redskins will have a postseason berth clinched by New Years Day. January 2nd is the date of the next Giants game. Bummer. They are the best remaining team on the schedule, and anything short than a season sweep figures to end the Redskins season at that point.
That means the significance of this game is to win it, not by something fluky happening, but to suggest to the Giants that, no, you can’t stop us doing what we want to do, and yes, you are going to need your receiving corps healthy if you want to put TDs up on us. Without a running game to pace McNabb, I don’t so much like his chances in this game. He needs probably 2 TD passes to keep the Redskins in it. I think he gets one. 21 points is a magic number to win it, and I’m just skeptical the Redskins can get there. Find me at halftime to re-evaluate.
The other point of significance: it’s the Giants. They’ve dominated this rivalry since 2005. We’ve beat them in December twice in the last five seasons. Both times, the Redskins went undefeated in the month, and made the playoffs. Go get them, guys.