There are no moral victories in the NFL, but there certainly are some positives the Giants can build off of from their Week 6 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
The Giants were the biggest underdogs of the season as they went into Orchard Park for the Sunday night showdown. Brian Daboll's squad, in the head coach's return to Buffalo, went toe-to-toe with one of the top teams in the league and had a chance to win the game on the final play. However, the Giants wound up losing, 14-9, dropping their record to 1-5 on the year.
The Commanders carried a three-game losing streak into their Week 6 matchup against the Falcons. Washington, with the help of three turnovers forced by the defense, won its first game since Week 2 as it went on the road and defeated Atlanta, 24-16.
This week's contest will be the second NFC East game for both teams. The Giants fell to the Cowboys in the season opener, while the Commanders lost to the Eagles in Week 4.
Here are five storylines to follow in the Week 7 divisional matchup.
1. Getting the offense on track
The Giants' offense has struggled to get going this season. Heading into this Week 7 matchup, the Giants rank 32nd in points and 31st in yards. Over the last three weeks, the unit has been held out of the end zone with the team's only touchdown coming on Jason Pinnock's 102-yard interception return. During that span, the offense has averaged just seven points per game.
A significant factor in the team's low scoring has been the offense's struggles in the red zone. The Giants were unable to punch it into the end zone on any of their four trips inside the Bills' 20-yard line. That dropped the team's red zone touchdown percentage down to 31.3 percent, which ranks 30th in the league.
The Commanders' defense has given up a touchdown 10 of 21 times (47.6 percent) when the opponent gets the ball inside the 20, good for the 10th best mark in the NFL. From Weeks 2 to 5, Washington gave up an average of 36 points per game to its opponents. The Falcons scored just 16 points last week, but did gain over 400 yards of total offense. It marked the third consecutive week the Commanders allowed an opponent to reach the 400-yards of offense mark.
Once again, the New York Giants are bringing back their classic blue uniforms from the '80s and '90s for the 2023 season as part of two Legacy Games presented by Quest.
2. DJ's progress
Quarterback Daniel Jones injured his neck late in the Week 5 loss against the Miami Dolphins. The injury forced him to miss his first game of the season this past Sunday in Buffalo, and his first game missed due to injury since the end of the 2021 campaign. Head coach Brian Daboll told the media Wednesday that Jones is feeling better and would be a limited participant at practice, but the quarterback has not yet been cleared for contact.
"He's doing better. He'll be out here today at practice doing some stuff. We'll see where we're at…" coach Brian Daboll told reporters before practice. "He's out here today, he'll be throwing, and I would say he's eager to come back. He wants to play, but obviously, just like any player, if you're not ready to play based on the doctor's evaluation, we won't put him out there, but he's getting better. That's why we're going to have him out here today."
In Jones' place, Tyrod Taylor started his first game with the Giants. The veteran quarterback completed 66.7 percent of his passes (24 of 36) for 200 yards and added five rush attempts for an additional 24 yards (4.8 avg.). Taylor was sacked just three times against a Bills defense that entered Week 6 leading the NFL with 21 sacks. The 34-year-old would once again start if Jones is unable to go this Sunday.
"Tyrod did a good job," the head coach told the media Monday. "Threw the ball on time, made some good throws down the sideline to (wide receiver Darius) Slayton, got the ball out of his hands even when there was some pressure so did a good job of leading his team. Obviously, the team thing of 0-for-5 in the redzone, that's a team thing, so something we've go to work on but continue to do that, but I thought Tyrod acquitted himself well."
The Commanders' pass defense has struggled this year, as they enter this matchup ranking 27th in passing yards and 30th in touchdowns allowed. After limiting the Cardinals to 114 passing yards in the season opener, the Commanders have allowed an average of 275 passing yards per game over the last five weeks. Washington has also allowed 12 passing touchdowns during that span.
3. Latest on the O-line
No position group has been more in flux this season than the Giants' offensive line. Since the start of Week 1, a total of 12 different offensive linemen have played snaps on offense. The Giants have been without All-Pro left tackle Andrew Thomas (hamstring) since the season opener, and while head coach Brian Daboll did tell the media that Thomas is getting better, the starting left tackle did not practice Wednesday. Joshua Ezeudu, who started the last five games in place of Thomas at left tackle, was put on injured reserve Tuesday with a toe injury.
In addition to Thomas, center John Michael Schmitz (shoulder), right tackle Evan Neal (ankle), and swing tackle Matt Peart (shoulder) did not participate in the first practice of the week. Additionally, offensive linemen Mark Glowinski (quad/ankle) and Shane Lemieux (biceps/groin) were limited in Wednesday's practice.
Due to the injuries along the line, the Giants made several roster moves this week to bolster the unit, starting with signing Justin Pugh to the active roster. Pugh was signed to the practice squad on October 3, and less than two weeks later, the veteran offensive lineman was elevated to the active roster for Week 6.
After starting the game at left guard, Pugh shifted over to left tackle when Ezeudu got hurt. The 33-year-old went on to play 64 of his 73 snaps at left tackle and allowed just three pressures on 38 pass block snaps. His 7.9 percent pressure rate allowed was the lowest by a Giants' left tackle all season. Pugh aligned most against Bills defensive end Leonard Floyd. While Floyd did pick up a sack just a few plays after the veteran lineman moved to left tackle, Pugh settled in nicely after that. The sack was the only pressure he allowed against Floyd on 14 pass block snaps.
"I thought he did some good things," Daboll said about Pugh. "Again, he hasn't played tackle in a while. We talked about it, like I said before, but we'll give him obviously some reps out there and make sure we get him ready to go…
"He's a pro. He's played a long time, so he does a good job staying in front of the guys, got quick feet. He can get to the second level. He's got a lot of experience. So, as long as they can do their job."
The Giants also signed Tyre Phillips from the Eagles' practice squad and Josh Miles from the Falcons' practice squad on Tuesday. Phillips spent the entire 2022 season with the Giants and played 12 games with five starts, four at right tackle and one at left tackle. He was released from the Giants' practice squad on September 1 and signed with the Eagles three days later. Miles played in a total of 17 games with the Arizona Cardinals between the 2019 and 2021 seasons, and signed to the Falcons' practice squad after training camp.
4. Defensive growth
After opponents averaged over 32 points per game against the Giants in the first three games of the season, the defense has stepped up in recent weeks. The Bills entered last week's game with a top offense in both points and yards. However, Wink Martindale's unit held Buffalo to just 14 points and under 300 total yards of offense. In fact, it was the defense's second time holding an opponent to under 300 yards, as the Seahawks totaled 281 yards in Week 4. Seattle's offense scored just 17 points, with seven of them coming after they began a drive on the Giants' eight-yard line.
While the defense struggled to slow down Miami's top-ranked offense in Week 5, the unit was able to force their first three turnovers of the season in that game. They followed that up with another two turnovers against the Bills, both of which were caused by Bobby Okereke. The veteran linebacker has taken his game to another level in recent weeks and has played a big role in the defense's growth.
"They have improved," Daboll said Monday about the defense. "I think Bobby O has done a great job of getting the ball and getting hands on the ball. A bunch of those turnovers are a result of his play along with the rush that goes along with it but seeing the quarterback, getting hands on the ball. You know, obviously, we had some big plays last week, we limited those this week. Improving the fundamentals, they've done a good job, they've improved so we're going to need to continue to do that."
Washington's offense ranks 15th in points and 22nd in yards this season. The team's 10 turnovers are tied with the Atlanta Falcons for the seventh-most in the league. The Commanders scored 24 points against the Falcons last week, but were held to under 200 yards of total offense. They've been held under 250 yards of total offense in three of their six games this season.
5. Beating the NFC East
There is no denying the Giants' struggles against the NFC East in recent years. In each of the last two seasons, the Giants totaled just one victory in divisional matchups. Other than the 2020 campaign in which they managed a 4-2 record within the division, the Giants have not topped two victories against the NFC East since 2016. In their only contest against the division so far this season, the Giants fell to the Cowboys, 40-0.
While they have struggled against division overall, the one team the Giants have had success against is the Commanders. Over their last nine games, the Giants hold a 6-2-1 record over the Commanders. In the six wins, Washington is averaging just 17.5 points per game.
This week's outing marks the first of three NFC East matchups over the next five games. They have back-to-back road contests against the Cowboys and Commanders in Weeks 10 and 11 before closing out their divisional slate with two games against the Eagles in the final three weeks of the season.
View photos from the all-time series between the New York Giants and the Washington Commanders.