1. SIX-GAME SEASON
Despite being idle last week, the 5-5 New York Giants gained ground in the NFC East race as the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles both fell to 4-6 with losses. Now the division-leading Giants, who have alternated wins and losses in their previous five outings, begin the home stretch with a road game at Washington on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. The Giants' remaining six games are against opponents with a combined record of 34-26: at Redskins (4-6), vs. Jets (5-5), at Dolphins (4-6), vs. Panthers (10-0), at Vikings (7-3) and vs. Eagles (4-6).
"Six-game season, that's exactly what it is," coach Tom Coughlin said. "Every game is a critical game. We are relevant and now we've got to do something about it. 'Finish,' that word we keep using, you've got to finish. We've got to be playing at our best in all three phases with no lapses, and that's where I'd like to see us go."
2. NICKS PLAYS CATCH-UP
Hakeem Nicks, the Giants' 2009 first-round draft pick, has not played in a meaningful game since the 2014 AFC Championship Game this past January with the Colts. The wide receiver, who climbed to ninth all-time on the franchise's receptions and receiving yards list in five seasons with Big Blue, was signed during the bye week and used the time to cut down on the learning curve in Ben McAdoo's system. Nicks has not previously played under the second-year offensive coordinator, but he knows quarterback Eli Manning better than any receiver.
"That helps a lot," Nicks said. "That helps a lot, that chemistry. We're definitely looking forward to it. Glad to be back in this position again, playing with Eli [Manning] again. I look forward to everything that is about to come."
3. IS THE PASS RUSH BACK?
The Giants notched a season-high three sacks in their last outing against the Patriots after having just nine in the previous nine games. On Monday, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said, "I'm feeling it. We're getting back there as a group, it's not just about me, and we're getting back there as a whole group and that's what counts."
As Pierre-Paul continues to get stronger and more comfortable with his injured right hand, the Giants hope to build those numbers against a Redskins offense that allowed five sacks last week to the undefeated Panthers.
"Everything is new to me," Pierre-Paul said. "Like you all can see, everything is new to me, still learning every day, daily, the system, and how to use to my hand. The good thing about it is that I can still play football. I have to be consistent with things, but like I said, everything is just new. I'm just learning and as time goes on, I'm just getting better. "
4. REINFORCEMENTS ARE COMING
The Giants have kept up their torrid pace with a plus-13 turnover differential, which is tied with the Panthers for first in the league. Big Blue's 23 takeaways are second to Carolina's 25 through 11 weeks of the season. However, the Giants have fallen to last in passing defense and 31st in overall yards allowed. The potential return of starting cornerback Prince Amukamara, who has missed the last five games with a pectoral injury, will help those numbers. And so will linebackers J.T. Thomas III and Uani 'Unga, who returned from injuries and practiced on Monday.
"I think we'd definitely help improve our defense," Amukamara said of the returning players. "I think our defense was doing great without us and we've seen the last couple of weeks, especially last week against the Patriots, I think we just add more bodies and add more help to help our defense."
However, the other side of the ball will await the status of two starting offensive linemen. Left guard Justin Pugh is going through the concussion protocol, while center Weston Richburg deals with an ankle injury that he suffered in the Patriots game.
5. TALE OF THE TAPE
Offensively, the Redskins enter Week 12 ranked 28th in total yards (332.8 yards per game), 20th in scoring (22.1 points per game), 20th in passing (237.5) and 25th in rushing (95.3). They are led by quarterback Kirk Cousins, who is third in the NFL with a completion percentage of 68.3. He has thrown for 2,485 yards with 15 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Meanwhile, the ground game rushed just 12 times for 14 yards last week as running backs Alfred Morris (112 carries/404 yards/0 touchdowns), Matt Jones (90/332/3) and Chris Thompson (25/184/0) split the carries. In his third game back since suffering a hamstring injury in the season opener, wide receiver DeSean Jackson scored his first touchdown of 2015 on a 56-yard pass from Cousins last week. Pierre Garcon leads the corps with 46 receptions for 473 yards and three touchdowns.
Defensively, Washington is 22nd in total yards (370.1), 12th in passing (234.1), 30th in rushing (136.0) and tied with the Giants for 24th in scoring (25.3). The Redskins have 17 sacks on the season, 4.5 of which belong to linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. Washington has a minus-5 turnover differential with 14 takeaways on the season.
On special teams, Andre Roberts returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown last week vs. Carolina. The punting outfit with Tress Way is 22nd with a net average of 40.2 yards. Dustin Hopkins has made 16-of-17 field goal attempts with a long of 54 yards.