Gameday Preview: Redskins vs. Giants
By: Les Barnhart 
Posted: 2005-12-23
Category: Washington Redskins News
New York Giants (10-4) at Washington Redskins (8-6)
December 24th, 2005 at 1pm
FedEx Field
FOX Sports (Dick Stockton, Daryl Johnston and Tony Siragusa)

Don’t look now but Washington Redskins’ games in December mean something to more than just the Redskins opponents. After dismantling their biggest rivals last week at FedEx Field, the Redskins welcome in the NFC East leading New York Giants for a game that is as big as either teams have had for years. For the Giants, a win will give them their first NFC East crown since 2000. For the Redskins, a win will put them only one game back a step closer to locking down their first postseason appearance since 1999.

The Redskins, coming off an incredible game against the Cowboys in which they seemingly did everything right, have not forgotten their first meeting with the Giants on October 30th in the Meadowlands. That game, a 36-0 Giants blowout, followed the loss of long-time Giants owner, Wellington Mara. In that game, RB Tiki Barber posted 206 yards on the ground and the underrated Giants defense kept the Redskins offense in check the entire game. Since that game, both teams have struggled at times to find their swagger. The Redskins posted three losses that were as heartbreaking as could be imagined and have followed that up with three straight wins while the Giants continue to find ways to pull their tails out of the fire when put themselves in trouble.

The Giants offense (360.9 yards per game, 7th) has come to focus more on their running back, MVP candidate Tiki Barber. Barber has enjoyed a career season this year (122.6 YPG and 8 rushing TD) and has gotten a great deal of help from his patchwork offensive line which has two backups (Rich Seubert and Bob Whitfield) playing full time due to injuries. He enters the game with five straight 100 yards rushing games. Eli Manning has shown some inconsistency at times but has also shown that he can lead the team like a veteran. For the Giants, it sometimes a question as to which Eli they will have. They come into the game with a passing game averaging 225.3 yards per game which is 11th best in the NFL. Manning has thrown for 3,314 yards and 22 touchdowns in 14 games. His favorite targets, Plaxico Burress and Jeremy Shockey have continued to produce for their young signal caller and that, in large part is why the Giants sit atop the competitive NFC East. Burress has 68 receptions for 1,046 yards while Shockey has hauled in 7 touchdown passes, both lead the Giants as a team. The Giants come into FedEx Field off of a win at home against the Chiefs in a game that saw Barber eclipse the 200 (220 yards on 29 carries) yard mark for the second time this season. Much like the Chiefs, the Redskins defense know first hand as to the damage that Barber can inflict if sound tackling isn’t used on the powerful back. If the Redskins are to stay in the game with the Giants, they will need to gang tackle Barber and punish him every time he touches the ball. The Redskins defense (292.9 YPG, 7th) has gotten better in recent weeks and that was again on display last week against the Cowboys. If the Redskins can generate the pass rush they did last week, the Giants will have their hands full and that could neutralize their main weapon, Barber, as well. The Redskins pass defense (186.4 YPG, 9th) has been forcing turnovers and playing much better pass coverage in recent weeks and that has been aided by the pressure being applied by the defensive front. The Redskins have been able to contain some quality running backs in the last few weeks but this weeks task of containing Tiki Barber is a daunting one for a defense that allows just over one hundred yards (106.5) on the ground per game. The Chiefs should have beaten the Giants last week but forgot how to tackle and Barber made them pay dearly.

The Redskins offense will be minus one of the main reasons that they have had so much success this season. Guard Randy Thomas was lost for the season last week when he was caught up in a play and broke his right leg. The Redskins will undoubtedly turn to “Old Man River” Ray Brown to fill his slot for the time being. The loss of Thomas not only affects the passing game but more importantly the running game where the Redskins have become more dominant as the season moves along. The Redskins come into the game averaging 134.0 yards per game (7th) but that was with Thomas. For the offense to maintain the same level of success they have enjoyed recently when they have implemented the throwback “power football” that has been long missing from the Redskins, they will need to get production from whoever fills in for Thomas. The passing game will also be affected as would be expected and the Redskins are hopeful that they will not need to use max protection schemes and thus limit the number of weapons they can use in passing situations. Brunell and the offense come into the game with 19th ranked passing offense in the league (196.7 YPG) but a great deal of the passing has been a controlled type passing because the running game has been working so well that they have not had to throw the ball as much. Also the defense has allowed the Redskins offense to play on the short field due to their improved performance. Santana Moss will continue to see the ball as well as Chris Cooley. Both players have served as the primary targets for Brunell this season and Cooley’s coming out party against the Cowboys may only serve as a taste of what is to come from the young tight end/H-back. The Giants defense (324.0 YPG, 22nd) has improved since the last meeting between the teams but they are still suspect against the pass where they allow a 25th worst 218.6 yards per game. They also were just lit up by the Chiefs Larry Johnson on the ground in last week’s contest. They will again look to their talented defensive line, anchored by Michael Strahan, to get pressure on the passer and to try force Brunell into throwing a bad pass. The Giants are a very opportunitisic team and will take advantage of any Redskins mistakes they can. The Giants will be in their second game without the services of former Redskin Antonio Pierce, who will miss the remainder of the season with an ankle injury. In his place last week, Chase Blackburn made his first NFL start and played an important part of the defense's performance against the NFL's number one offense in the Chiefs.

This match up pits two long time rivals in a game that is one of the biggest in the weekend slate of games.Both teams desperately want to win this game and there should be no shortage of emotion in the raucous FedEx Field. The Redskins 12th man has been emerging all season and they will need to be in full force Saturday. The Redskins are 5-2 in their friendly confines while the Giants are 3-3 on the road. For the Redskins to emerge in this battle of the titans, they will again need to control the line of scrimmage and get their ball control, power running game on track. On the other side of the ball the Redskins defense will need to find a way to contain Tiki Barber or they could find themselves on the business end of a broom, getting sweep in the season series with the Giants. The Redskins can ill-afford to lose this game and still maintain strong aspirations for the postseason. For them, the playoffs have already started.

Coaches Clipboard:
* With a win, Coach Joe Gibbs will pass Marv Levy for 12th in career wins with 155.
* A win will give the Redskins a winning season for the first time since 1999.
* The Giants lead the series 82-59-4 and have won 2 of last 3 games against the Redskins.
* Tom Coughlin is 3-3 against the Redskins while Coach Gibbs is 13-15 against the Giants.
* Tiki Barber needs 1 rushing TD to become the Giants all time leader with 50.
* Clinton Portis needs 137 rushing yards to pass Stephen Davis for single season rushing record (1,432 yards).
* Santana Moss needs 197 recieving yards to pass Bobby Mitchell for single season receiving record (1,436 yards).
* Chris Cooley needs 4 receptions for franchise record for catches by a TE (67).
* Tiki Barber needs only 2 yards to reach 2,000 total yards for the second straight season.

- Wingman
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