Three keys to victory for the New York Giants on Sunday against the Washington Redskins:
1. No Adrian. Three-time NFL rushing champion Adrian "All Day" Peterson is now with the Redskins after stops in Arizona and New Orleans following his Vikings days and still looks like the player who is third in league history in rushing yards per game (91.5, trailing only Jim Brown at 104.3 and Barry Sanders at 99.8). Giants coach Pat Shurmur, who overlapped with Peterson briefly in Minnesota, said he is still that same explosive, downhill runner. But Redskins coach Jay Gruden has been getting the seven-time Pro Bowler and former league MVP more plays to the perimeter as opposed to between the tackles. Giants defensive coordinator James Bettcher also saw Peterson up close last season when they were both with the Cardinals. In Washington's four wins this year, Peterson is averaging 21.5 carries for 103.0 yards. In the Redskins' two losses, he has 15 attempts for 26 yards – total.
"Adrian Peterson is still Adrian Peterson," outside linebacker Olivier Vernon said. "I don't know how he does it, but he finds a way. Kudos to him, he's a hard-working guy. He's been doing it for a long time. It's going to be a privilege to play against him."
2. Win up front. Eli Manning has been sacked 24 times so far this season, the most of his career through seven games. The Giants need to slow down Washington's talented front seven. With veterans like Ryan Kerrigan, Mason Foster and "Bama Boys" Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne, Washington's defense ranks fifth in yards, seventh in scoring, and third against the run. The Giants used another offensive line combination last week when Spencer Pulley started at center and John Greco slid over to right guard in place of Patrick Omameh. Shurmur said he will stick with the same lineup on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
Keep an eye on these five players as the Giants conclude the first half of the season on Sunday
3. "Next man up, let's go." The Redskins don't care that the Giants traded two defensive starters – 2016 All-Pro Damon Harrison and former first-round pick Eli Apple -- this week in exchange for draft picks. And neither will the Giants' opponents on the other side of the bye week after this game. Shurmur understands the questions, but he bristles at the talk of throwing in the towel. The Giants can't do that with the NFC East leaders coming to town.
"I think Coach Shurmur said it the best, that if anyone is talking about us tanking on defense, that's just a disrespect to everyone that's working the process, that's on the field practicing, that's in the room watching tape and getting ready," Bettcher said. "I love that we have vets in our locker room. I love that we have guys of high character on our defense that no matter what the challenge is – whether the challenge is 1-6 and finding a way to get a win, or if this team were a five-win team and we were trying to not be complacent."
Bettcher added: "[I] learned this message from a wise coach I worked for, and he said the next man up, let's go. It's opportunity and it's an opportunity for those guys to get exposure and get a chance to play, and play more snaps. It might mean five more snaps for one guy, it might mean 20 more snaps for another guy, it might mean a starting role for a couple."
View photos of the unofficial starters for Sunday's game against Washington