By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com
Approach to the Game: Hate is a very strong word, but I hate the Redskins. I hate their players. I hate their uniforms. I hate their fans. The bulk of Redskin faithful are ill-informed nincompoops who think they are great fans. Blind, retarded exuberance does not make you a great fan. I hate their owner. He represents everything that is wrong with the NFL. But at the same time, I hope he owns the Redskins as long as he lives, and I hope he lives a long time. He knows how to impoverish his fan base, but he has no clue how to build a football team.
Hate Eric? It’s just a football game. Get a grip! No, it’s these negative emotions that make NFC East rivalries so outstanding. For just over three hours each week, we lose ourselves in this barbaric game of war, letting loose those baser instincts that still reside in human beings. We live and die with each play. Those who observe us and who don’t understand our passion for the game, wonder aloud why we put ourselves through this agony. It’s a release. It’s fun. It makes you feel alive.
Giants versus Redskins…that’s just plain, good old-fashioned football!
Giants on Offense: I don’t like this match-up for the Giants at this point in the season. The Redskins had a very strong defense last season before the additions of All-World DT Albert Haynesworth and first-round DE/LB Brian Orakpo. Now the Redskins’ defense is strong at all three levels – defensive line, linebacker, and secondary. What makes this a tough match-up for the Giants is that the Redskins are very good at stopping the run, AND they have the players in the secondary to man up against the Giants and add yet another defender in the box against Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw.
Let’s be honest. If your team had Carlos Rogers, DeAngelo Hall, Fred Smoot, LaRon Landry, and Chris Horton in the secondary, you would feel very confident about their ability to cover the Giants’ inexperienced wide receivers without help. In fact, the Redskins’ defensive staff is most likely counting on it. Until they prove otherwise on the playing field against top-flight defensive backs, the Giants’ wide receiving corps is not to be feared.
So, like probably everyone the Giants will face this season, the Redskins will focus on stopping the Giants’ ground game. Last season, the Giants ran well on the Redskins in the first game but not so much in the second game (the first game without Plaxico Burress, which is not a coincidence). Now enter Albert Haynesworth, the best defensive player in football last season. Haynesworth, DT Cornelius Griffin, MLB London Fletcher, and the two good run-defending safeties will make it extremely difficult to run between the tackles. The Redskins’ defense is strong up the middle. The Giants may be better off running outside, but they have to be careful that Hayneworth doesn’t disrupt the pulling linemen before the play even has a chance. Shaun O’Hara is one of the better centers in the NFL, but he will have problems with Hayneworth’s power and will need help from his flanking guards. That puts more pressure on everyone else, especially the tackles and tight ends. The Giants need strong games out of David Diehl, Kareem McKenzie, Kevin Boss, Darcy Johnson, and Madison Hedgecock as blockers.
With their front seven, do the Redskins even have to add another man to the box? If they don’t, the Giants’ offense is going to have an even harder time. If they do, the playbook tells you to throw. That is easier said than done with these receivers against that secondary. But my gut tells me that Coughlin and Gilbride will try. At that point, this game comes down to its simplest form…can our guy beat your guy? Can Steve Smith, Domenik Hixon, and Mario Manningham get open against that secondary? Even more importantly, will they be in the right spot? If they are not, interceptions that decide the game could be the result.
The Giants could attempt to spread the Redskins out with four wides (with the fourth receiver being Kevin Boss split out or possibly rookie Hakeem Nicks or Sinorice Moss). Or they could take a safer, more conservative route and pass more to Boss and the backs. In either case, again, the play of the two tackles is important. Diehl has to be able to handle Andre Carter or Orakpo and McKenzie has to be able to handle Phillip Daniels. The Skins’ defensive coordinator loves to blitz so the line, tight ends, and backs need to be mentally alert and physically able to pick up the dogging linebackers and defensive backs.
Most importantly, don’t turn the ball over! This is likely to be a low-scoring game that is decided by turnovers and special teams play. The team that makes the fewest mistakes will probably win the game.
Giants on Defense: I would be much, much more confident about this side of the ball if Aaron Ross (hamstring) and Michael Boley (suspension) were available, and Fred Robbins (still getting into shape after offseason knee surgery) and Chris Canty (not in football shape at all after missing the entire preseason) were at full strength. I just don’t get the sense that this unit is as strong right now as it will be by the mid-way point of the season.
That said, let’s be honest. The Redskins’ offense isn’t very good. While there are some old stalwarts on their offensive line, the line is not a strength. On paper, the Giants should cause a lot of problems for the Redskins up front. DE Justin Tuck versus RT Stephon Heyer has to be a match-up of particular concern to Washington. Since none of the regular players is yet used to playing a 60-minute game, the Giants should also have an advantage at throwing quality fresh players in waves at the Redskins. Guys tiring up front? Throw in Mathias Kiwanuka, Rocky Bernard, and Chris Canty. No break for the weary!
The Redskins game plan would seem to be pretty obvious. Run the football and use the short passing game to control the clock, keep the Giants off the field, and tire out the defense. Clinton Portis is going to get beaten up behind that offensive line, but he is still capable of breaking a big run or two in a game. Don’t give him room to breathe. Make the Redskins one dimensional and put the onus on a passing attack that is not very dynamic.
I don’t think the Redskins can or will score a lot of points against the Giants. But what concerns me is that they won’t have to in order to win the game. A big play here or there from a mental or physical breakdown could be all they need. The Giants’ defense is going to be jacked up at the start of this game. They want to prove they are the best. If I’m Washington, I use this against the Giants, especially since I won’t have a lot of confidence in my offensive line to block the Giants’ defensive line. So watch out for misdirection! Watch out for draws, screens, and gadget plays! I guarantee you Washington will use all three. Will the Giants’ defense be ready?
I don’t think that QB Jason Campbell will have the time to make a living off of 5- and 7-step drops. I expect the Redskins to throw short to Cooley and Portis against a Giants’ linebacking corps that has questionable coverage skills. The Redskins also love the bubble screen to Santana Moss. Whoever is covering him in these situations needs to make solid, sure tackles as soon as he catches the football.
Terrell Thomas has already been told he will start opposite Corey Webster. Let’s pray Kevin Dockery (hamstring) plays and everyone stays healthy. With Ross likely out, depth is practically non-existent. If the Redskins go four-wide, the Giants will have to counter with rookie CB Bruce Johnson or S Kenny Phillips over the fourth wide receiver.
To me, the key on this side of the ball is not to give up the big play. The Redskins should have a hard time moving the ball against the Giants if they need a lot of plays to do so. But a cheap score or two may be all they need. Stop the run. Watch out for misdirection. Force some turnovers to help out your offense.
Giants on Special Teams: Hard-fought divisional games often come down to special teams. It will be interesting to see who the Giants have settled on as a punt returner (Hixon? Manningham?) and kickoff returner (Bradshaw? Ware?). Help out the defense by preventing big returns by Antwaan Randle El (punts) and Rock Cartwright (kickoffs).
Prediction: Redskins 16 – Giants 13. Relax! It’s a marathon, not a sprint. The Giants will be a much stronger team by the midway point of the season.