EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –** The Giants this week turned the Washington Redskins into the best 3-10 team in NFL history.
Their public discussions have stressed that Washington is far better than its record or (last) place in the standings. And that 45-14 beatdown the Giants gave the Redskins in FedEx Field on Sept. 25? It's irrelevant, as is Washington's 24-0 home loss last week to St. Louis.
The Giants expect a typically rugged NFC East battle and a talented, motivated opponent when the teams meet in a rematch tomorrow in MetLife Stadium.
"I think it is important to recognize this football team," coach Tom Coughlin said this week.
This is the 13th consecutive season the Giants and Redskins are meeting on Nov. 30 or later. The teams are 6-6 in the previous 12 late-season games. Last year, the Giants defeated Washington here in the season finale, 20-6. But the Redskins won as December visitors in 2007 and 2011, seasons that ended with Giants Super Bowl victories.
Coughlin – whose team is 4-9 and one game ahead of Washington in the NFC East standings - noted that Washington is ranked 12th on offense and 10th on defense in the NFL. He said the Redskins have outstanding performers on offense in DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Trent Williams. Though the identity of Washington's starting quarterback was a mystery for much of the week (before Colt McCoy was yesterday cleared to play).
Keep an eye on these five players as the Giants face Washington on Sunday
"You see a lot of playmakers," safety Antrel Rolle said. "They run the ball. Obviously (Alfred) Morris, he's their (leading rusher). You have Garcon. Like I said, you have a lot of weapons out there. You have DeSean, you have (tight end Logan) Paulson, you have all these guys that can make plays. You have to go out there and play ball. You've got to put together a four-quarter game."
Defensively, Coughlin stressed that Washington has a disruptive front led by Jason Hatcher, Chris Baker and Ryan Kerrigan.
The Giants and Redskins are longtime rivals, of course. But that familiarity can create more, not less, uncertainty regarding the outcome, because teams always bring a little extra enmity to a division game.
"No doubt," quarterback Eli Manning said. "Anytime you play in the division, it is going to be a big game. We played them early in the year, we probably played them our best game that day, so I am sure they want a little revenge on that. We are going to expect their best and they will have some new wrinkles for us, and some new things, and we have to be prepared."
The Redskins have been in position to win in the fourth quarter in seven of their 10 defeats. That does not include the game in September, which was both the Giants' biggest victory of the season and Washington's most lopsided loss. The Giants forced six Washington turnovers, including four interceptions of passes thrown by Kirk Cousins, who is not expected to play tomorrow. Manning threw for 300 yards and Larry Donnell scored three touchdowns.
"I think we protected well offensively," said Manning, who was sacked just once. "The defense got (six) turnovers, had a short field to work with, that always helps the offense. We were effective in the red zone. We just had great opportunities and took advantage of it. Hopefully, we can see what we did well. Go make some adjustments, we will make some adjustments, and we protected the ball, and got the ball out pretty quickly.
"(I) threw the ball accurately, got a lot of completions. A lot of completions on first and second down, didn't have many third downs. I just kind of remember being well-protected and getting protected, good protection, and the ball coming out quickly."
The Giants know they can't expect a repeat performance just by showing up.
"It's a division opponent," offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said. "Things always change. It was a long time ago when we played them. We benefitted a lot from field position, whether it be from special teams or turnovers from the defense. Defense, special teams played lights out last time. We executed at a high level.
"To say we would go out and just roll the ball out there and do that again is ignorant. We know we're going to have to work for everything we get. They've been playing well on defense. They've been giving up some chunk plays, but they do challenge you schematically. We have to make sure everyone's on the same page and performing at a high level, playing fast and ready to execute."
If they're not, the danger is they will really make Washington look like the NFL's best 3-10 team. And that could result in an unpleasant defeat.
Get to know the Giants' opponent for their Week 15 matchup vs. Washington