The Giants may have entered their bye weekend on a low point following their last-second defeat to the Patriots, but they enter Week 12 still in first place, and are coming off a weekend in which they won without even playing a game.
Thanks to the ineptness of the Washington Redskins (4-6) and the Philadelphia Eagles (4-6), New York (5-5) still controls its own destiny. They have everything still in front of them, and now must “handle business,” as quarterback Eli Manning deemed.
They get that chance when they face Washington for a second time this season on Sunday (1 p.m. kickoff, FOX). And with another win, comes a season sweep and a likely death knell to Washington’s NFC East-winning aspirations.
New York’s remaining schedule isn’t the easiest following their tilt in Washington (Jets, Dolphins, Panthers, Vikings, and Eagles), so a win on Sunday would go a long way to gaining security within the division – especially with both Washington’s and Philadelphia’s schedules way tougher down the stretch.
Metro takes a look at the key storylines to follow, as Big Blue looks to take a firm hold in the divisional race.
What to watch for:
1. A Prince returns to his kingdom.
The Giants have dealt with a plethora of injuries this season, but the loss of cornerback Prince Amukamara for a couple of few weeks may have been the most damning. Amukamara, who is returning from a pectoral malady, would’ve been a huge difference maker in last week’s one-point loss to New England, especially on the fatal final drive when the Giants allowed Danny Amendola to convert on 4th-and-10 to extend the possession and get the Patriots within field goal range. Barring a setback during practices this week, Big Blue will get their Prince back, and he’ll likely draw the task of covering Washington’s big-play wideout, DeSean Jackson. The speedy receiver is a familiar foe from his Eagles’ days, and also a proud Giant killer, but Amukamara said he gladly accepts the challenge. “I feel 100 percent. I’m ready to return,” said Amukamara, adding the battle with Jackson will be fierce. “He’s freakishly fast. But I’ve played against him the last five years and I know what to expect.”
2. The return of a familiar face.
Wideout Hakeem Nicks was signed during the team’s bye week, and while he may not be the same player that helped the franchise win the Super Bowl four seasons ago, he knows the surroundings and knows the quarterback. Nicks, 27, is still young by real-life standards, but his body has taken a beating over the years. His medical file is extensive, yet head coach Tom Coughlin said he’s very confident that Nicks has plenty still to offer.
“To be honest with you, I don’t think there’s even a question about that part of it [being an immediate contributor]. He is a young man and he does miss it, and he has worked very hard to stay in shape and be ready,” said Coughlin, adding he believes the veteran can still be a downfield threat. “I’m hoping that’s exactly what [he] will be.”
Nicks was never a burner, but he used to possess solid hands and ran good routes during his prime Giant years. But he has been injury-riddled and is coming off a mediocre 2014 season with the Titans. He was such dead weight during the preseason in Tennessee, though, that the receiver-needy squad still cut him, deciding they could do better. The Giants’ brass acknowledged that they still saw some star quality in Nicks during his workout earlier in the month – a workout that also included Wes Welker. So, here’s hoping for Big Blue that the wideout regains his mojo and helps a receiving corps that is too dependent on Odell Beckham Jr.
3. Can they finally finish?
This has been the word of the season for the Giants, as Coughlin has been trying earnestly to get his team to heed his word. Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked for a team that has mastered the art of the close defeat. Four of its five losses have been by a total of nine points. As Beckham lamented this week, there’s “no reason why we couldn't have been 9-1 or 10-0.” Alas, there is a reason, and that’s due to a sense of complacency when leading in the fourth quarter, and a lack of attention to detail when they have that lead in the waning moments. Coughlin certainly hopes lessons were learned during the bye week, and that his team is ready to show that killer instinct in Washington. Big Blue has yet to put forth a complete game, but they are still the best team in the division, with an elite, clutch quarterback who knows what it takes. The team’s overall play has been getting better in the last few weeks, so now’s a good time to really put the hammer down on a Washington team that has been known to fold once a team gets on top of them early. Start fast, and finish strong will be the key to a Giants’ win.