The Giants.com staff debates Big Blue topics heading into Thursday night's matchups:
*Thanksgiving is the best holiday for watching sports. *
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact - This isn't even close. Only if Christmas is on a weekend do you get Christmas football. New Year's used to be an epic college football day but not anymore with the playoff system in place. Baseball on Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day are fun, but nothing compares to the NFL on Thanksgiving. It's the best.
DAN SALOMONE: Fiction - Only if you're a Cowboys or Lions fan are you guaranteed to see your NFL team play on Thanksgiving – in a regular-season game. Give me New Year's any day of the week. How does this sound for your Jan. 1, 2018: Rose Bowl followed by the Sugar Bowl to decide who's playing for the College Football Playoff National Championship. It's the college version of Conference Championship Sunday in the NFL, which should really be its own holiday. Now that's the best day in sports.
LANCE MEDOW: Fact - Is there a better combination than football and turkey or a more notable sports tradition? The only legitimate competition to Thanksgiving is Christmas, which belongs to the NBA, and although I'm a huge basketball fan, the NFL games on Thanksgiving carry much more weight than a handful of regular season NBA games in the latter part of December. There are far more playoff implications on the line in the NFL on Thanksgiving than in the second month of the NBA season. As far as I'm concerned, there's nothing to debate.
The Giants' top priority this week is pressuring Kirk Cousins.
A look at the key playmakers on the Redskins' roster
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - Kirk Cousins is excellent, and the Giants do have to slow him down. But even with pressure, Cousins does a great job of delivering the ball downfield before getting hit. The Giants' winning formula includes running the ball with some modicum of success. They cannot constantly be in third-and-longs because those types of plays lead to turnovers. A close second for me is covering Vernon Davis, who is still a dangerous downfield receiving threat.
DAN SALOMONE: Fact - No team has fewer sacks than the Giants this season, and that needs to change if the Giants want to salvage anything down the home stretch. I don't care how good a quarterback is under pressure, you can't complete many passes from your back.
LANCE MEDOW: Fact - Seven Redskins offensive linemen, including all five starters, appeared on Monday's injury report. They also placed their starting center, Spencer Long, on injured reserve this week. It's safe to say Washington's line is banged up and this isn't anything new given they've been dealing with those injuries for the majority of the season. It's clearly an area the Giants need to take advantage of, but they only have 14 sacks (tied for 31st in the NFL) on the season and are banged up themselves on the defensive line. Kirk Cousins does a great job protecting the football and making good decisions as evidenced by his 17 touchdown passes against only five interceptions in the first 10 games of the season. With his O-line plagued by the injury bug and the Redskins' receiving corps missing a few key weapons, the one way the Giants can impact the Washington offense is applying pressure to Cousins.
The Giants need to force at least three turnovers to defeat the Redskins.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - Three is too high of a number, but the Giants will need to win the turnover battle in order to win the game. Despite throwing the ball a lot (and down the field), Kirk Cousins has just five interceptions this year. He has protected the ball well. The Giants got all their points in regulation against the Chiefs off takeaways last Sunday, and doing more of the same this week will give the offense a chance to put some points on the board. The Redskins are probably going to score close to 20 points, and the Giants could use some favorable field position off takeaways to match them.
DAN SALOMONE: Fact - It might not be sustainable, but then again, the Giants forced three on a Kansas City team that had turned the ball over only four times all season. And as we talked about, forcing Cousins out of his comfort zone will only open up big-play opportunities for the defensive backs.
LANCE MEDOW: Fact - The Giants have just two wins this season, and in both of those victories, they've had three takeaways and were at least plus-two in turnover differential. That could very well be a coincidence, but without the aid of takeaways, the Giants have had trouble moving the ball and finishing drives. Against the Broncos and Chiefs, the Giants scored 16 points off turnovers, and in the Kansas City game, they benefited from favorable field position as the two drives in which they scored off takeaways started in Chiefs' territory. The Giants have just 12 takeaways in 10 games; the Redskins have 15 turnovers. New York will have to be opportunistic to put itself in a position to win the game.**
Orleans Darkwa will run for 100 yards vs. Washington.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - The Redskins are 19th against the run, but I suspect they will jam the box early and often in this game. They will let Bashaud Breeland and Josh Norman cover one-on-one outside and focus on Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard and the Giants running game. The Giants will likely be without D.J. Fluker, their powerful run blocker. Darkwa was also in and out of the game late against the Chiefs with an injury. Add all those things together and it means less than 100 yards for Orleans Darkwa.
DAN SALOMONE: Fiction - I was very tempted to say "fact" given how the Giants have been running the ball and that they have a history of doing so in Thursday games. But adding D.J. Fluker to an injury report that still includes Justin Pugh could make it a tough day on the ground. With that said, you can't rule out anything on Thursday games.
LANCE MEDOW: Fiction - While the Giants have run for over 100 yards in five of their last six games, Orleans Darkwa has just one 100-yard game during that stretch and he's had only two games in which he's received at least 20 carries. Wayne Gallman and Shane Vereen are still very much in the mix and that impacts Darkwa's workload and opportunities to hit the century mark. Plus, given this week is a short turnaround, I don't think the Giants will look to have Darkwa do all the heavy lifting. You can't overlook the Redskins are 19th in the NFL against the run. They're allowing 115 yards per game, but they have a very strong linebacker unit.