*Giants writers debate Big Blue topics heading into Sunday's matchup with the Redskins: *
The cold weather on Sunday will be a bigger advantage for the Giants.
John Schmeelk - Fact:I don't think it will be a big factor either way. Neither team runs the ball very consistently, which will be important given the frigid temperatures and expected wind conditions. The Redskins are good at running Samaje Perine to the perimeter, away from Damon "Snacks" Harrison, but their overall numbers aren't very good. Both teams are near the bottom of the league in rush defense. Whichever team runs the ball better will probably win the game and therefore has to deal with the wind less will probably win the game.
Dan Salomone - Fact: Anything to slow down Washington through the air will help the Landon Collins-less Giants. Coach Jay Gruden even said this week that the loss of the two-time Pro Bowl safety changes what the Redskins can do "quite a bit." The same, he said, goes for Janoris Jenkins, who is also on injured reserve. But the weather can offset those hits in the secondary.
Lance Medow - Fiction:Both teams are used to playing outdoors and in cold weather, so I don't think either team gains an upper hand thanks to the weather. Plus, the best way to deal with the cold is to run the ball effectively, and both teams have struggled in that department this season. The Giants are ranked 29th in the NFL in rushing yards per game (86) while the Redskins are averaging 93 yards per game, putting them just 26th in the league.
The outcome of Sunday's game will be determined by turnovers.
John Schmeelk - Fact: Handling the ball properly in cold weather is also essential. Whether it's something as simple as the quarterback or special teams handling a snap, or a receiver or returner catching a ball. The wind is a different issue, which comes down to which quarterback can cut through the wind better with their passes. More often than not the team that wins the turnover battle wins the football game and it will be no different on Sunday in inclement conditions.
Dan Salomone - Fiction: I think this game comes down to the pass rush, which in turn could lead to turnovers. Eli Manning was sacked four times in their first meeting on Thanksgiving night as the offense gained just 170 yards, the Giants' worst output since 2013. This game will be won or lost at the line of scrimmage.
Lance Medow - Fiction: In Week 12, each team turned the ball over once and the Giants actually scored a touchdown off their takeaway (Janoris Jenkins pick-six) -- yet they still lost the game by 10. That's mainly because New York struggled to move the ball, totaling just 170 yards and going 2-for-14 on third down. Turnovers alone won't dictate the outcome of the game. Instead, it's going to come down to the production of the Giants' offense. Case in point, New York has been even or won the turnover battle seven times in 15 games this season, but that's translated to just two victories. Takeaways and field position are critical for an offense that struggles to put points on the board, but it's not how many takeaways you collect; it's what you actually do with them.
Kirk Cousins has been the Giants' toughest opposing quarterback in the division over the last five years.
John Schmeelk - Fiction:This is a tough question because the quarterbacks for all three teams have changed over the past five years. The best quarterback of them all during the stretch would probably be Tony Romo, even though he hasn't faced the Giants the last two seasons. I'll go with him, but Cousins is a close second.
Dan Salomone - Fiction: What about Nick Foles? He hasn't been a consistent starter like some of the other quarterbacks in the NFC East, but he is 3-0 in games he's played against the Giants. His Eagles teams have outscored Big Blue 97-50 in those matchups, including a 27-point shutout in 2014. He has a passer rating of 102.7 against them, throwing eight touchdowns to two interceptions. He has been a thorn in their side, for sure.
Lance Medow - Fiction:A five-year span would take us back to 2013 and considering the Cowboys' Dak Prescott and Eagles' Carson Wentz have only been starters since the beginning of 2016, there's not much of a sample size for those two to top Kirk Cousins, who has been Washington's main starter since 2015. Although Cousins has been more than a solid quarterback for the Redskins, I wouldn't say he's given the Giants a great deal of headaches since 2015. That's why I think Tony Romo has been the team's toughest opposing quarterback in the NFC East over the last five years. Yes, he missed the majority of 2015 and only made a brief appearance in Week 17 in 2016 but if you go back to 2013, Romo helped the Cowboys go 5-0 against the Giants over his final two plus seasons as Dallas' starter. In the span, he threw for 14 touchdowns with five interceptions. It's Romo by a landslide and it's not even close.
Wayne Gallman will lead the Giants in yards from scrimmage in the finale
John Schmeelk - Fact: I think Gallman will do it as a receiver. With the wind blowing I expect him to get targeted on a bunch of dump-offs close to the line of scrimmage. Combine that with his rushing yards and the injuries to Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard I think it is a safe bet he leads the team in scrimmage yards.
Dan Salomone - Fact: He has cumulatively over the last three weeks, so why not on Sunday? What is setting him apart is his ability to catches passes out of the backfield. He has 20 receptions in the month of December, tied with Evan Engram for second on the team and one behind Sterling Shepard at the top. And neither the tight end nor wide receiver practiced this week because of injuries.
Lance Medow - Fiction:I'm going with the clean fiction sweep this week. When the two teams met in Week 12 in Landover, Wayne Gallman led the Giants in yards from scrimmage with 43, but that's not saying much considering New York only recorded 170 total yards of offense. Last week, Rhett Ellison led the way with 60 yards as Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard both left the game with injuries. While Gallman has a favorable matchup on paper, because the Redskins rank 29th in the NFL against the run (allowing 126 yards per game), the Giants have only run for more than 84 yards as a team once in the last five contests. That means you have to bank on Gallman doing a lot of damage in the passing game where he's had at least 40 receiving yards in each of the last three games. With that being said, I'd still lean toward a tight end or receiver heading the pack.
Keep an eye on these five players as the Giants get set for Week 17