Each and every year, the NFC East is touted as one of the most talented and toughest conferences in the NFL. And each and every year at least one team disappoints. This year every team except 2011’s last place Redskins have disappointed us in one way or another. Three of the four teams currently sit under .500, and the last place Eagles have been battling the Tebow-less Jets for biggest bust of the year. The Cowboys have underperformed yet again, managing only five wins with a plethora of talent on the roster. This leaves us with our week 13 matchup: the New York (Football) Giants vs. the Washington Redskins.
The Giants have had a rollercoaster of a year thus far and who knows if the largest drop has been hit yet. To say they have disappointed may be a reach, but it was their recent stretch of poor performances that got fans and analysts concerned. Eli went through a dead-arm phase and lost sight of the end zone, failing to record a passing touchdown in three straight games, while tossing 4 interceptions. But last week Eli showed his Manning heritage by throwing for 250 yards and 3 touchdowns in a turnover free blowout of the Packers. Hakeem Nicks has proclaimed himself the healthiest he has been all year which only bodes well for the football Giants.
The Redskins have been a pleasant surprise in the NFC East after finishing 5-11 last year. Robert Griffin III has exceeded his first year expectations, instantly becoming one of the most electric players in the NFL. In his first year, he has brought the Redskins to their ’11 win total of five and has encountered a couple of close losses. After 12 games, “RG3” holds a 4:1 TD:INT ratio (16:4) and is completing 67% of his passes, good for 4th in the league. But RG3’s hype came from what he can do on the ground. Boasting a 4.41 40-yard dash time, this former track star was expected to make things happen scrambling out of the pocket. He’s done so by rushing for 642 yards (6.4 ypc) and 6 touchdowns, good for 21st in the NFL. Ryan Mathews and Michael Turner have fewer yards than Griffin, just to name a few.
What’s at stake in this game? Although the Giants are sitting at 7-3, they still have a lot to prove to their fans, the league and most importantly themselves. Eli needs to come out and have another strong outing and David Wilson needs to step up in Andre Brown’s absence. A broken leg will sideline him for the rest of the regular season, but a return in the Super Bowl could be a possibility. Victor Cruz needs to get over his case of the drops, which he has had off and on this entire season, totaling 9 so far. The Redskins are still very much in the wild card hunt at 5-6 but will need a win against NY or Baltimore to keep the dream alive. The Skins play Cleveland and Philadelphia in weeks 15 and 16, which should be easy wins for a playoff team. The Redskins only have two wins at home compared to three losses and losing twice to a divisional rival can be heartbreaking to fans. This matchup is the definition of a ‘make-or-break’ game for Washington.
The keys to this game are simple. Washington’s 31st ranked pass defense needs to step up against two great wide receivers and capitalize on their chances to create turnovers. With Bradshaw’s counterpart out, the Giants will likely throw the ball more to account for Brown’s carries. Wilson has had fumbling issues his whole career so you can bet that Washington will be throwing their fists at the ball each carry he gets. RG3 needs to be cognizant of the ferocious pass-rush he is about to endure and make things happen with his feet. Pierre Garcon’s health will be a key factor in boosting the Redskins passing game. Garcon appeared healthy last week but has claimed he won’t be 100% until the offseason.
You can bet the Redskins will be keeping an eye on the Tampa Bay, Seattle and Minnesota games, as those teams are their top competition for the 2nd wildcard spot. All three teams have tough road matchups and will be fighting for wins. Assuming Green Bay has the top wildcard spot locked up, New Orleans (@Atlanta) and Dallas (vs. Philadelphia) are the only two teams with realistic possibilities of making the playoffs. The NFL rarely fails to excite, and the suspense this year could go deep into the regular season.