The Giants are riding high after a beatdown of San Francisco on the road. But now they get back to division play where they have their only two losses of the season. That means Sunday’s game against the Redskins shapes up as a particularly critical matchup.
What to watch for …
1. How do they slow down Robert Griffin III?
The Giants have experience corralling mobile quarterbacks, having faced the Eagles’ Mike Vick and the Panthers’ Cam Newton, but Griffin is a different type player, as he’s a better passer than Vick and faster than Newton. The man known as RG3 has electrified Washington (3-3) and shocked the league, as the Redskins are only a game out of first place behind the Giants (4-2). Griffin is the ultimate dual-threat. He’s third in passing efficiency and has averaged 223 yards passing per game, but has also rushed for 379 yards, and scored six rushing touchdowns — which ties him for second in the NFL with All-Pro running back Arian Foster of the Texans. Conversely, the Giants are staunch, allowing just three rushing touchdowns this year, so something has to give.
2. Can Ahmad Bradshaw keep up his torrid pace?
The diminutive sparkplug has been on a career-best streak, stacking up a 200-yard rushing performance against the Browns two weeks ago, with arguably an even more impressive performance against the vaunted 49ers defense with 116 yards on 27 carries last week. The Niners game was impressive because they were the top-ranked rushing defense, and hadn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher on their turf in over three seasons. The Redskins, despite losing two key starters in defensive lineman Adam Carriker and Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Orakpo, are still staunch against the run, yielding just 88.8 yards per game. The Giants won’t take that defense lightly, especially since tackle-machine London Fletcher is still manning the inside linebacker position. Fletcher knows Big Blue’s running scheme intimately, as he’s tallied 135 tackles in the 14 games he’s faced them.
3. Can the Giants’ offensive line continue to keep Eli Manning clean?
New York hasn’t allowed a sack in three games, a staggering statistic, considering the injuries and inconsistencies that have plagued this unit throughout the season. Sean Locklear has done an outstanding job filling in at either tackle spot — first when regular left tackle starter Will Beatty (back) missed chunks of training camp and later when right tackle David Diehl (knee) missed time. Diehl has returned but has yet to regain his starting spot, as he’s mostly filled in as the third tackle and extra tight end when the Giants go to their “jumbo” package. Manning has only been sacked five times this year, but will face a Redskins defense that has averaged two sacks per game, despite losing Carriker and Orakpo. How well the line protects Manning will go a long way in determining the outcome.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.