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Giants vs. Commanders: Week 15 storylines to follow

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For the second time in three weeks, the Giants will face off against the Commanders in a game that carries significant playoff implications.

The two teams met in Week 13 and finished in a 20-20 tie. Following the Giants' loss to the Eagles and the Commanders' week off, the two teams enter this matchup with identical 7-5-1 records.

"They have a very good defensive line," Coach Brian Daboll said Monday. "They have a strong running game, an explosive receiver (Terry McLaurin), a quarterback (Taylor Heinicke) that is – like I said the last time we played him – playing with a lot of confidence. They've won a considerable amount of games here these past seven games. Tough opponent."

Whoever emerges from Sunday Night Football with a victory will hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the other, which could come into play at the end of the season.

Here are five storylines to follow in this pivotal Week 15 matchup:

1. Turning focus to Washington

There is no way around it – the Giants got beat soundly on Sunday. Brian Daboll's team suffered their most lopsided loss of the season against the Eagles as they surrendered a season-high 48 points. The most points they allowed prior to Week 14 was 31 to the Lions in Week 11. The Giants have gone four games without a win as they've seen their record drop from 7-2 to 7-5-1.

But Daboll is not allowing his team to sit around and wallow in self-pity. Despite the recent rough patch, the Giants still find themselves firmly in the Wild Card race. The Commanders and Giants currently own the sixth and seventh seeds in the NFC as Big Blue is eyeing its first trip to the postseason since 2016. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the game, Daboll is reiterating the same message to his team as he has all season long – stay consistent in everything you do.

"You're upset; you're not happy that you lost. But you have to get ready to play another game and quickly," the head coach told the media Monday. "Make the corrections that you need to make, whether that be coaching staff with the players. It's a long season; there's quite a bit of adversity throughout it. Maybe for some teams, it's in the beginning. For some teams, it's in the middle, and other teams, it's at the end. We're going through a little bit of it right now, and I think it's important to stay consistent, do the things that you need to do to try to win games with your preparation and practice. You explain that to your players, which I think they all understand. Again, whether it's the coaching staff or the players, they've tried to remain as consistent as you can be. And that takes some mental toughness throughout the year."

View photos from practice as the Giants prepare for their Week 15 matchup against the Washington Commanders.

2. DJ's success at FedExField

Daniel Jones has put up solid numbers despite the team's recent rough stretch. The fourth-year quarterback is averaging 234.5 passing yards per game with four touchdowns and two interceptions over the last four games, in addition to 161 yards and two scores on the ground. He has also completed just over 66 percent of his passes during that span.

Jones had perhaps his most efficient outing of the season against the Commanders in Week 13. The 25-year-old completed 80.7 percent of his passes (25 for 31) for 200 yards and a touchdown and added a season-high 12 rush attempts for 71 yards (5.9 avg.). In three career games at FedExField, Jones has completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 813 yards, seven touchdowns and zero interceptions. He has also carried the ball 18 times for 111 yards (6.2 avg.) and an additional touchdown.

"I think he's done a really good job for us," Daboll said Wednesday. "I've enjoyed working with him. I think he's really been on top of all the things we've asked him to do. He's taking care of the ball. He's made good decisions. He's been enjoyable to work with."

The Commanders rank eighth in the league in passing yards allowed at 200.1 per game. However, the 20 passing touchdowns they have given up are tied for the ninth-most in the league, while their seven interceptions are tied for the sixth-fewest.

3. Get Saquon going again

The Giants were able to jump out to a 6-1 start this season thanks in part to a stellar performance in the run game led by Saquon Barkley. But things haven't quite been the same since the team traveled across the country to take on the Seahawks in Week 8. Since that outing, Barkley has topped 63 yards on the ground only once, which came in the Week 10 win over the Texans (35 rushes for 152 yards and a TD). In the other five games, which resulted in four losses and a tie, Barkley has averaged 41.0 rushing yards per game and an average of 2.8 yards per carry.

"I think some of the things earlier in the year, too, is we had some good numbers but some of those were from big runs, too," Daboll said earlier in the week about the team's struggles in the run game. "So, you look at the type of game you're playing in, whether you're behind, whether you're getting as many touches as you want to get. You look at the play design; you look at all 11 on the same page. I think it's probably a variety of things.

"Certainly missing a few big plays out there is one of them and just being on the same page and making sure we get a hat for a hat, getting downhill and making some positive yards. I'd say some of the games we didn't run it probably as much as we would've run it based on where we were at. So, all that being said, we're just not doing a good enough job. All those other things to me, I'm giving you some examples, but we're really not making any excuses – just got to do a better job."

Barkley still ranks fourth in the NFL with 1,083 rushing yards while adding 42 receptions for 261. Although the Commanders held him to 63 yards on 18 carries (3.5 avg.) two weeks ago, Barkley has enjoyed success against the division rival throughout his career. The fifth-year running back is averaging 91.2 yards per game and 6.0 yards per carry in six games against Washington, along with 4.5 receptions and 39.8 rec yards. The Commanders come into this game with the league's No. 9 run defense, giving up 110.4 yards per game, but their 4.4 yards per carry allowed ranks in the middle of the pack.

4. Defensive bounce-back

The Giants' defense is coming off its roughest performance of the season. The Eagles ran the ball at will on Sunday, racking up 253 yards and four touchdowns on 31 rush attempts (8.2 avg.). The 253 yards on the ground and 48 points allowed were the most the defense has surrendered on both counts this season. Philadelphia also was 6-of-11 on third down while Jalen Hurts threw for 217 yards and two touchdowns for a passer rating of 109.2.

Washington registered 36 rush attempts for 165 yards at MetLIfe in the last meeting, including 96 yards from Brian Robinson and 39 from Antonio Gibson. Terry McLaurin also put together one of his most productive outings of the season with receptions for 108 yards and a touchdown, as Taylor Heinicke finished with 275 yards and two touchdowns.

Wink Martindale's unit sacked Heinicke five times in Week 13, and added another four sacks against Hurts this past weekend. The pass rush has received a significant boost with the return of Azeez Ojulari. The second-year outside linebacker has three sacks, four quarterback hits, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in his two games back after a calf injury sidelined him for two months. Despite only playing in four games, Ojulari is second on the team with four sacks this season.

5. Injury updates; Leo returns to practice

Coach Brian Daboll provided several injury updates when he met with the media before Wednesday's practice. On the positive front, defensive lineman Leonard Williams was limited in practice after missing last week's game against the Eagles with a neck injury. The defensive lineman was forced out of the Week 13 contest against the Commanders and did not practice at all last week.

Running back Saquon Barkley practiced in full Wednesday after a neck injury suffered last week appeared to limit his productivity against the Eagles. He was not listed on Wednesday's injury report. Tight end Daniel Bellinger (rib) departed last week's game early and did not return, but was on the practice field as a limited participant Wednesday, as was outside linebacker Elerson Smith (achilles).

CB Adoree' Jackson (knee), OL Josh Ezeudu (neck) and OL Shane Lemieux (toe) did not participate in Wednesday's practice. All three were hurt during the Week 11 outing against the Lions and have been unable to practice since.

OLB Jihad Ward and WR Richie James missed Wednesday's practice as well due to concussions suffered on Sunday.

"I hope so," Daboll said Wednesday about Ward and James' chances of exiting the concussion protocol by the end of the week. "I hope both of them will be, but you never know with those."

Additionally, Daboll shared that safety Xavier McKinney would not return this week. McKinney injured his hand during the bye week and was placed on the Non-Football Injury list.

View rare photos of the all-time series between the New York Giants and the Washington Commanders.

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