Robert Griffin III was beat up by the 49ers last week. Credit: Getty Images
The Giants claim their season isn’t dead yet, but should they lose to the Redskins in a pivotal Sunday night matchup, it’ll likely be time to serve the team its last rites.
While the combined seven wins might not be too appealing to the average fan — and the network television executives — the sheer desperation of the two teams, who are also bitter NFC East rivals, should make up for the lack of aesthetically pleasing football.
Three things to watch for ...
1. Getting defensive.
Contrary to popular belief, the Giants’ defense isn’t all that bad. They recently had a stretch where they hadn’t allowed a second-half touchdown for over a month’s time and have only allowed 23 touchdowns in 11 games. Only seven defenses have been scored on less frequently. The Panthers lead the league with just 12 touchdowns allowed, while the Cardinals, Patriots and Titans have also given up 23 touchdowns by opposing offenses. The Giants are ranked 24th in the NFL in points allowed (25.5 per game), but that doesn’t indicate the improvement made since early in the season. They’ve allowed just four touchdowns in the last five games and that’s including a period in which the Giants gave up four return scores. It’s a misleading stat since those technically counts as points allowed but should really be attributed to special teams flubs.
2. Which Griffin shows?
If Washington is to have a chance at the upset and save some face on this otherwise disastrous season, Griffin needs to look like the hotshot rookie dubbed “RG3” that tantalized the league last season preinjury. So far this season, Griffin has been up and down in performances with his wins being great highs (18-of-29 for 298 yards, two touchdowns and 84 rushing yards in a 45-41 Week 7 win over the Bears) and his losses being albatrosses (15-of-30 for 132 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions, a lost fumble and just seven rushing yards in a 45-21 loss to the Broncos in Week 8). If Washington fans witness the former, Big Blue could be in trouble. But should the latter show up, the home crowd will have endured its second straight disappointing home loss.
3. Will the passing game finally man up?
Giants quarterback Eli Manning has struggled this season, even during wins, as he’s connected on just 56.9 percent of his passes for 2,760 yards, 14 touchdowns and a league-high 17 interceptions. His starting wideouts, Victor Cruz (60 receptions, 851 yards and four scores) and Hakeem Nicks (42 catches for 620 yards and no scores), haven’t been much help either. But if there was ever a time for an offense to shake its doldrums, this week would be it. Washington has the 26th-ranked pass defense and has yielded a generous 27 passing touchdowns this season. Something has to give.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter@TBone8.