Going deep on the soul of D.C. sports

Redskins vs. Giants: Matchups to watch

December 31, 2010 - 09:06 AM
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Left tackle Trent Williams needs to close his rookie campaign out with a strong outing against the Giants for the Redskins to have a chance at winning. (Photo: Heather Farrell)

Well, this is the end of the road for Mike Shanahan and the 2010 Washington Redskins. Taking on the New York Giants at 4:15 p.m. on Sunday, the Redskins are hoping to close out this disappointing season on a positive note.

A victory would give Washington a 7-9 record -- a three-game improvement on last season -- and it also would spoil the Giants’ playoff hopes.

The Redskins say they aren’t focused on playing spoiler, but instead just want to win for themselves. Jobs for next season are on the line. And although Mike Shanhana and his top assistants Kyle Shanahan and Jim Haslett say that they have a good feel for what kind of talent and needs that they have, a player certainly can still help or hurt his chances with strong or poor performances on Sunday.

The Giants are favored by four points and enter with a 9-6 record. The Redskins are just 2-5 at home while the Giants are 4-3 on the road. New York averages 25.1 poins a game while Washington musters just 19.2 per outing. The Giants' defense gives up 22.2 points a game while the Redskins this season have allowed 24.0 points a game.

The Giants have beaten the Redskins in five straight games and own an 8-2 record against Washington in the last 10. The last time these teams met, back on Dec. 5, the Giants gashed the Redskins for 197 rushing yards and held a 21-0 lead at halftime before winning 31-7.

The Giants are coming off of two straight losses (a 38-31 heart-breaker to the Eagles and a 45-17 thrashing by the Packers). Washington, meanwhile, just snapped a four-game losing streak with a 20-17 overtime win over Jacksonville. Who comes out on top this time?

Here are the key matchups for this game:

LBs LONDON FLETCHER/ROCKY MCINTOSH vs. RBs BRANDON JACOBS/AHMAD BRADSHAW
The last time Washington played New York, the Redskins tackled about as poorly as they could have, and the Giants rolled. Jacobs needed just eight carries to tally 103 yards and two touchdowns, and Bradshaw piled up 97 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. Look for the Giants again try to pound the ball all day long. This time around, Fletcher, McIntosh & Co. need to do a better job of wrapping up. If the Redskins can’t slow Bradshaw and Jacobs, it’ll be a long day.

LT TRENT WILLIAMS/RT JAMMAL BROWN vs. DEs JUSTIN TUCK/OSI UMENYIORA

The Giants are going to try to overwhelm Rex Grossman, and that means Tuck and Umenyiora will have their ears pinned back. And you can include Jason Pierre-Paul in that category as well. Last meeting, the three defensive ends combined for four sacks on Donovan McNabb, and it was the young reserve, Pierre-Paul, that led the team with two. If the Redskins are to have any kind of a chance on offense, Williams and Brown have got to keep Grossman upright and hold off the pass rush.

CB DEANGELO HALL vs. WR MARIO MANNINGHAM
The Giants’ wideout made it known early this week that he is looking forward to facing off with Washington’s Pro Bowl cornerback. Manningham said that Hall brings out the best in him. Hall, however, needs to be at his best. He at times gets in trouble because of his aggressive style, but it can also pay off if he gambles correctly. Will Manningham’s confidence serve him well, or will calling Hall out only set him up for a bad game?

TE CHRIS COOLEY vs. S ANTREL ROLLE
Grossman went to Cooley early and often last week, but Cooley couldn’t take advantage of those opportunities, dropping four of the five first-half passes that went his way. Cooley was “embarrassed” by his play, so look for him to be extra motivated to redeem himself this week. Rolle will have to help the Giants’ linebackers in coverage. If they can take Cooley away, the going gets tougher for Rex Grossman.

OTHER KEYS TO VICTORY
> Run the ball -- Ryan Torain needs to have a steady performance for the Redskins to ease pressure on Grossman and to keep the Giants from being able to blitz as much. The Redskins were without Torain last time. Could he be the difference maker?
> Get to Manning -- The Redskins are hoping to get Brian Orakpo back this week, and if the defensive line can have a similar performance to what they had last week and have the services of Orakpo, things could go well for Washington. Rob Jackson is coming off of a strong game, but with Orakpo back, the plan is to line him up on the left side of the defensive line instead of the right, where he was last week. Another strong outing for the second-year pro will bode well for his future.
> First and second downs -- The Redskins were 4-for-15 on third downs last week because most of the time, they were in third-and-long situations. They must get better production on first and second downs to set up more manageable third downs. Their best drive (the 14-play scoring series) saw them produce on first and second downs and face short third downs.

PREDICTION
History doesn’t give any reason for confidence, but I’m going to go with the Redskins. It just feels right. The Giants are falling apart, and the Redskins desperately want to finish the year 7-9 with a win over a divisional rival. Redskins 20, Giants 18.

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