Gameday Preview: Washington Redskins at New York Giants
By: Les Barnhart
Category: Washington Redskins News
October 30, 2005
1pm on FOX (Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston and Tony Siragusa)
Put away your Rubik’s Cube, Don Johnson jackets, Olivia Newton-John sweatbands and your Dukes of Hazzard lunchboxes. While it seems like old times with the re-emergence of the Redskins and the once again competitive NFC East division, this isn’t VH1 and we aren’t trapped in the ‘80s. Two of the greatest football franchises will lock horns this weekend in a game that, with the Eagles playing in Denver, could see the winner sitting atop the NFC East with a one game lead on the division.
While the fans of both teams will be focused on the game, one of the greatest men in football will be watching from the best seat in the house. On Tuesday, Wellington Mara, died at the age of 89 after losing his battle with cancer. Mara, the co-owner of the Giants for the past seventy five years, will be remembered for many things but non-Giants fans should especially remember him as the driving force for the TV revenue sharing plan that has allowed the NFL to prosper since its inception in the 1960’s. Mara’s father, Timothy, purchased the Giants in 1925 for $500.00 and in 1930, Wellington, at the age of 14 along with his brother, Jack (22), became owners of the team when their father turned it over to them.
The Giants will bring a great deal of emotion into the game following the death of Mara, who had been long referred to as a “player’s and fan’s owner” and the fact that they are playing a game that counts this much at this point in the season. The Redskins are also trying to adjust to life at the top of the division, a place that they haven’t enjoyed at this point in the season for some time. Both teams possess high octane offenses and are coming into the game on a roll. The Redskins come off of a beatdown of the 49ers at home, 52-17, while the Giants used a touchdown in the closing seconds of the game to defeat the Broncos on the road, 24-23.
The Giants offense has shown that they can put points on the board against anyone and in fact, they lead the league in scoring with an average of 28.8 points per game. Much of the offense, as of late, has centered on the passing game with Eli Manning doing the damage. Manning is averaging 223.7 yards per game (13th in NFL) and has thrown 12 TD’s. Manning will look to extend his current streak of throwing a touchdown pass in seven straight games. The Giants running game which some on the team feel has been ignored at critical times this season, especially in an overtime loss earlier to Dallas, should find some room against the Redskins defense. They are averaging 108.5 YPG (17th) and are going up against a defense that is allowing that that same amount on average per game. However, the Redskins may have found some relief in their run stopping as Lavar Arrington was on the field against the 49ers and was very active, making 9 tackles (7 solo, 2 assists). If Arrington is used and can produce, the defense that ranks 4th in the league and is allowing 266.0 YPG, should get that much better. Arrington’s impact should be felt immediately against the Giants passing game as the Redskins have been unable to get an effective pass rush all season. Despite the lack of consistent pressure, as well as injuries to the secondary, the Redskins are still only allowing 157.5 YPG. The Giants will need to use a balance of run and pass against the aggressive Redskins defense to move the ball. The Giants ability to control Arrington and conversely, the Redskins ability to get Arrington involved in the defensive scheme could be the “x-factor” that determines the level of success the Giants offense have.
The Redskins have, in the past, found it difficult to contain tight end Jeremy Shockey. The former University of Miami standout has had more than five catches in four of the five games he has played in against the Redskins. In addition to Shockey, the Giants also have Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer and out of the backfield, Tiki Barber. Burress (36 receptions for 535 yards and 5 TD's) is listed as questionable for the game due to a shoulder injury. If he can’t go, the Giants will be minus one of Manning’s favorite targets and more importantly for the Redskins secondary, the Giants will be without one of the taller receivers. Tiki Barber needs only 90 yards on the ground to become the first New York Giant to reach 7,500 yards.
The Redskins offense, ranked 2nd in the NFL and fresh off their feast against the beleaguered 49ers defense in which they rolled up 457 yards and scored 52 points, rolls into the Meadowlands facing a Giants defense that is ranked 31st in the league. They are giving up yardage on the ground (116.0 YPG, 21st) and especially through the air (295.8 YPG, 31st). The Redskins passing offense behind Mark Brunell is posting some impressive numbers and more importantly, they are consistent. Brunell is among the league leaders in yardage, QB rating and touchdown passes. His 2 interceptions have him tied for third fewest in the league. Santana Moss (34 catches for 647 yards, 5 TD’s) is tied for 2nd in the league with 15 3rd down grabs. Overall the Redskins are ranked 8th in the league in passing with 247.3 YPG but if you factor in the opening game (against the Bears) and that the offense didn’t come to life until the final 3:48 of the Cowboys game, that average is based primarily on the last 4 games. The Redskins, much like their stadium name indicates, are moving the ball much like FedEx. They are moving the ball through the air and on the ground (139.8 YPG, 4th) with the 1-2 punch of Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts. Portis found the end zone last week for the first time this season. In fact, he found it three times. The Redskins offensive line deserves credit for the success of the offense as well. This week they will face a Michael Strahan-led defense that has struggled to stop many of their opponents all season. Strahan, who has been battling an illness the past two weeks, comes into the game with 15 sacks against the Redskins, his second-most against any team.
This game, unlike many of the previous meetings between these NFC East heavyweights, may end up being a high scoring affair. In a series that has been a showcase for smash mouth, hard nosed football, and this game may have that and some flash as well. The Giants play well at home (3-0 this season) and will be emotionally charged for this game, not only because of the NFC East division lead being at stake but also the loss of their owner, Wellington Mara. The Redskins, who ruined the party for the Cowboys on the night in which they inducted Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin into their famed Ring of Fame, will need to play through the emotional sideshow and silence the Giants home crowd. Turnovers, as always, will be critical and the team that wins the turnover battle should put themselves in position for the win.
The Redskins may have their kicker, John Hall, back for this week’s game. He has reported that he feels good and will need to get the approval from the coaching staff before being given back his duties. Until then, Nick Novak will handle the placekicking duties. Novak has done well during Hall’s absence, connecting on all 15 PAT kicks while going 5-7 on field goal attempts. Both misses were blocked but were poor kicks from the start. Getting Hall back will increase the offense’s scoring opportunities by adding distance on the field goal attempts. The Giants kicker, Jay Feeley, is perfect on the season (11-11 FG and 14-14 PAT) and has connected from 52 yards.
· Clinton Portis needs 42 yards to tie Jamal Lewis as the 5th fastest to 5,000 yards.
· Santana Moss is averaging 19.6 yards per catch (2nd in NFL).
· The Redskins defense is only allowing 14 first downs per game (2nd in NFL).
· Plaxico Burress needs 3 catches to reach 300 for his career.
· The Giants hold an 81-59-4 series advantage.
· The Redskins have won 2 of the last 3 games against the Giants, including the last meeting, 31-7. The home team won both games last season.
· Coach Joe Gibbs is 13-14 against the Giants.
· Coach Tom Coughlin is 2-3 against the Redskins.
Here are this week's key player match-ups:
Shawn Springs v Plaxico Burress
By Scott Hurrey
This could be the most intriguing match-up of the day, as well as the most fun to watch. Burress has been a go-to guy for young Eli Manning, and Springs will need to use his veteran coverage skills and superior instincts to disrupt that chemistry. This could decide the ball game.
Jon Jansen vs. Michael Strahan
By Daniel Coleman
A slimmed-down Strahan has lead the pass rush for the Giants, though the defensive unit as a whole has suffered. Strahan and Jansen are meeting for the first time in two years, and, if it's anything like their battles in previous seasons, the matchup could be intense. Strahan has stated in the past that Jansen has been his toughest foe, but Jansen has extra worries since he's protecting QB Mark Brunell's blind side.
Despite Strahan having lost weight and being as determined and driven as ever, Jansen is stronger than the aging Strahan, and has consistently shut him down in the past. Randy Thomas will provide some help on the inside, so look for Jansen to take care of Strahan on Sunday.
Clinton Portis vs. Antonio Pierce
By Daniel Coleman
In what is probably the most anticipated matchup this week, Antonio Pierce will look to shut down his former teammate Clinton Portis. Gibbs has tweaked the offense from last year, but Portis is still seeing most of his carries called between the tackles. This makes Pierce's job as an MLB crucial: if he doesn't stop Clinton, then the Skins RB could slash his way into the Giants secondary all day.
Pierce is a proven player and extremely smart on the field. He will likely be in a position to make plays on Sunday. In addition, the Redskins may look to go more to the air in their offensive attack, since this could better exploit the Giant's weaknesses on defense.
Santana Moss v Will Allen
By Daniel Coleman
This is a matchup that 'Skins fans can feel pretty good about going into Sunday. It's not clear that anyone can contain Moss right now--he leads the league in receiving and has consistently sped by opposing team's best corners. Will Allen has been a solid player for the Giants, and is known to be a good run-stopper in particular. If he doesn't get plenty of help from his safeties, however, he could be toast. If he plays too tight, a simple go-route could put Moss far behind him; if he gives Moss too much room, then even a WR screen could break into a big play.
Winner - Moss
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