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NFL Preview - Washington (5-6) at N.Y. Giants (7-4)
By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - Provided they reach the field in one piece, the New York Giants are dangerous. But given the last few weeks, that's s anything but a given.
Big Blue entertains NFC East-rival Washington this week at New Meadowlands Stadium, but will do so without several players who helped catapult the team to a 6-2 beginning -- and who've subsequently been absent as the quick start has devolved into two losses in three weeks.
The skid has brought the Giants back to the pack in the division, where they share a lead at with the 7-4 Philadelphia Eagles. New York dropped a 10-point decision in Philadelphia in Week 11 and will host the Eagles in Week 15 on Dec. 19.
Likely missing again this week will be wide receivers Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith, who've already sat out a combined three games. Nicks is recovering from leg surgery after being diagnosed with compartment syndrome, while Smith is dealing with a partially torn pectoral muscle.
Nicks leads the Giants with 62 catches for 800 yards and nine touchdowns and Smith had a team-high 107 grabs in 2009. In their absence, the team's top threat has been Mario Manningham, who's caught 41 passes for 561 yards and five touchdowns.
"Steve is working towards getting back to where he feels good about himself and the medical people are ready to put him out," Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said. "He'll be on the side, but he'll do more running and more extensive work. He's put the pads on and done that, and hopefully the progress keeps going."
Coughlin said offensive tackle David Diehl, who suffered hip and hamstring injuries during the Giants' 41-7 victory over Seattle on Nov. 7, was scheduled to participate in individual drills and "take a couple of plays to just see what his status is."
He added that also-injured center Shaun O'Hara would do some running this week, but offensive tackle Shawn Andrews, who has been plagued by chronic back pain, isn't ready to return.
The injury bug hasn't missed Redskins Park either.
Washington, which was already without running back Ryan Torain for a third straight game with a hamstring injury, said goodbye to counterpart Clinton Portis for the season when he was placed on injured reserve with a torn abdominal muscle prior to last Sunday's meeting with Minnesota.
The Redskins were beaten in Vikings interim coach Leslie Frazier's first game last week, dropping a 17-13 home decision.
The loss dropped Washington, which has posted back-to-back victories only once this year, to 5-6 and two games back in both the division and NFC Wild Card races. With just five games remaining, the team realizes it's put itself in a do-or-die situation the rest of the way.
"We don't have much margin for error, if any," linebacker London Fletcher said. "It's a tough race in the NFC this year, there are a lot of teams ahead of us right now. I think we have to run the table, so this (next) game is extremely important."
Torain is questionable this week, as is cornerback Carlos Rogers with a hamstring problem. Safety LaRon Landry is doubtful with an Achilles injury.
The Redskins will play three of their next four games on the road, where it is 3-2 in 2010.
The Giants have a 89-61-4 advantage in the all-time regular-season series with Washington, and have won four straight in the series since the Redskins won at Giants Stadium in 2007. New York was a 23-17 home winner over Washington in Week 1 of 2009, and completed the sweep with a 45-12 rout at FedEx Field in Week 15. The Giants are 7-1 in their last eight games against the Skins, and their current four-game winning streak is the team's longest against Washington since winning six in a row from 1993 through 1995.
The teams have also split two postseason matchups, with the Giants' 17-0 victory in the 1986 NFC Championship countering a 28-0 Washington win in a 1943 NFC Division Playoff.
Coughlin is 10-5 against the Redskins all-time, including 1-2 while with the Jacksonville Jaguars (1995-2002). Washington head coach Mike Shanahan was 1-2 against the Giants during his tenure with the Broncos (1995-2008), with both defeats coming at Giants Stadium.
Shanahan and Coughlin have a significant shared history, meeting five times between 1995 and 1999 when Coughlin's Jaguars and Shanahan's Broncos were regularly near the top of the AFC. Shanahan was 3-2 against Coughlin in those games, including a loss to Jacksonville in the 1996 AFC Playoffs and a win in the 1997 postseason. Coughlin tied the personal series at 3-3 when his Giants defeated Shanahan's Broncos, 24-23, during the 2005 season.
WHEN THE REDSKINS HAVE THE BALL
By the numbers it's been a rough go for the Redskins, who are just 25th in the league in points scored (19.5 ppg), 26th in rushing yards (90.7 ypg) and 21st in total yards (332.7 ypg). The numbers tick upward when it comes to the pass, where Washington is 10th in the league with a 242 yards per game average. The Giants haven't been more than passively stingy on the scoreboard (21.8 ppg, 17th overall), but teams have had a devil of a time going up and down the field, as a 286.5 yards per game average (second best in the NFL) attests. New York s pass defense is tops in the league with a 186.4 yards per game average, while its rush total of 100.2 yards allowed is 10th-best in the NFL.
Since 2001, Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb is 11-4 against the Giants, including the playoffs, and has won four starts in a row against New York. He aims for a third straight game versus the Giants with a 100-plus quarterback rating. In career games where he reaches that standard, McNabb's teams are 46-2. In the no-name backfield, Keiland Williams is tied for the league's rookie lead with five touchdowns and is the lone rookie in the NFL this year with two or more rushing and receiving scores. Wideout Anthony Armstrong has 25 catches for 545 yards, a 21.8-yard average that's tops in the NFC, and has gotten a first down on 20 of those receptions. Veteran counterpart Santana Moss has three career games with three touchdowns, two of which have come against New York. In those two, he has 15 catches for 281 yards. Elsewhere, tight end Chris Cooley aims for a third straight game against the Giants with at least six catches and 68 yards. He's third among NFL tight ends with 54 catches. No. 2 tight end Fred Davis had a touchdown catch in his last meeting with the Giants and one last week as well.
Giants end Justin Tuck has seven sacks in his past six meetings with the Redskins and pursues a seventh game in row against Washington with at least a half-sack. New York's other starting end, Osi Umenyiora, aims for a third outing in a row against the Redskins with a sack and had a 37-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the teams' 2009 meeting at the Meadowlands. Cornerback Terrell Thomas had a 14-yard interception return for a touchdown in his last encounter with Washington, while rookie end Jason Pierre-Paul had career-high two sacks and two forced fumbles in Week 12.
WHEN THE GIANTS HAVE THE BALL
New York is a top 10 statistical performer in all major offensive categories, including points scored (25.2, sixth), total yards (387.0 ypg, third), passing yards (249.0, ninth) and rushing yards (138.0, sixth). Meanwhile, the Redskins are buried deep in the bottom tier on defense, landing 21st in points allowed (23.8 ppg), 32nd and last in total yardage allowed (400.9 ypg), 29th in passing yards surrendered (269.4 ypg) and 26th against the run (131.5 ypg).
Giants quarterback Eli Manning needs 179 yards to reach 3,000 for the sixth consecutive season and is the franchise's only passer to accomplish such feats in five straight years. He has won four starts in a row against Washington and seven of his past eight in the series. In these teams' last meeting, Manning completed 19-of-26 passes for 268 yards with three touchdowns and a 144.4 rating. In the backfield, Brandon Jacobs has averaged 105.7 yards per game in his last three bouts with Washington, while running mate Ahmad Bradshaw had two rushing touchdowns in his last game against the Redskins and ranks fourth in the NFC in scrimmage yards with a career-high 1,147. Wideout Manningham has two straight games against the Redskins with a touchdown catch of 25 yards or more. He had a 26-yard score in last week's 24-20 win over Jacksonville and aims for fourth straight game at home with a score. Tight end Kevin Boss has scored a touchdown of over 30 yards in two straight home games, while wideout Derek Hagan had a 23-yard scoring catch his last time out against Washington.
For the Redskins, linebacker Brian Orakpo has 6 1/2 sacks in his last seven games and controversial defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth managed a sack in his last game against the Giants.
In a Washington offense dotted with anonymity, tight end Cooley is the most viable starting option. Elsewhere, Armstrong has developed into a deep threat and could be a dark-horse play, as could kicker Graham Gano. The absences of Smith and Nicks makes Jacobs and Bradshaw a potent punch for New York, and provides value for Manningham and tight end Boss as well. At the end of the day, the Giants defense might be the safest bet of the weekend.
The Giants took a step back toward the top of the NFC East with last week's defeat of Jacksonville that ended a two-game skid. The Redskins, meanwhile, have dropped three of four since a 4-3 start. Even with the disarray of the New York pass-catching corps do to the injuries, the matchup of power running against a shoddy defense -- plus a home-field advantage -- turns the dial to the Giants in a smashmouth spotlight.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Giants 30, Redskins 14
12/02 13:27:28 ET