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Giants vs. Washington: Week 18 storylines to follow

GIANTS-VS-WASHINGTON-STORYLINES

The Giants wrap up the season with another divisional matchup against the Washington Football Team at MetLife Stadium this Sunday.

The offensive struggles continued for the Giants last week. Big Blue gained 151 total yards in a 29-3 loss to the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Over the past three weeks, the Giants have scored just 19 total points, while failing to top 200 total yards in each of the last two games.

Washington has been one of the streakiest teams in the NFL this season. After splitting the first four games, Ron Rivera's team lost four consecutive weeks leading up to their Week 9 bye. Washington then won four straight to its their record to 6-6, before losing another four in a row to drop to 6-10. They fell short against the Philadelphia Eagles last week, 20-16.

Here are five storylines to follow in the season finale at MetLife Stadium.

Wrapping up 2021 season

The Giants hope to finish the season on a high note. Washington picked a 30-29 victory in the first meeting between the two teams in Week 2. Dustin Hopkins connected on a 43-yard field goal on the game's final snap following a defensive penalty. A Giants' win would give them a 4-4 record at MetLife Stadium this season.

Big Blue enters this matchup having lost five consecutive games and six of the last seven. The five-game losing streak coincides with the neck injury suffered by Daniel Jones, which ended his season after Week 12.

Fromm likely to start

Joe Judge announced on Monday that Mike Glennon suffered a season-ending wrist injury to his non-throwing hand. Jake Fromm is in line to make his second career NFL start. Fromm started against the Eagles in Week 16 (6-of-17 for 25 yards with an INT). Rookie Brian Lewerke would be in reserve – he spent time last season with the Patriots after going undrafted and signed with the Giants in August. He's spent the entire season on the team's practice squad.

"We have Brian Lewerke with us all year, including some of the preseason. He's been with us and familiar with our schemes," Judge told the media. "We'll work both those guys in practice this week. Right now, based on reps and games, Jake would have the nod. I would anticipate getting him prepared that way, but like any other week we'll get both guys ready and make sure they're both prepared and ready to play."

Saquon building off a 100-yard game

Saquon Barkley had his best rushing performance of the season against the Bears last week. Barkley carried the ball a season-high 21 times, five attempts more than any other game, and finished with his first 100-yard rushing performance of the year. The fourth-year back averaged 4.9 yards per carry, finishing with 102 yards on the ground. It was the first time Barkley topped 100-yards rushing since Week 16 of the 2019 season.

"I'd say in terms of what I saw from him, he really ran tough and aggressive {vs. the Bears]," Judge said. "He ran with good ball security, he ran downhill. He was very productive for us in a game that a team knew that we were going to just run the ball and run the ball. We were able to run the ball when they knew we had to run the ball and a large part of that – obviously, it takes everybody – but a large part of that was his ability to find a seam, push vertical, run tough, create extra yards.

"Some of his best runs were only two- [or] three-yard runs, where he was able to go ahead and make someone miss in the backfield and certainly make something productive out of it. When something was blocked up in front of him, he didn't miss on that. He got vertical with it and he did a good job getting downhill."

In the first meeting against Washington, Barkley registered 13 rush attempts for 57 yards (4.4 avg.), adding two receptions for 12 yards. In their loss to the Eagles last week, Washington surrendered 118 yards on 34 carries (3.5 avg.), including 47 yards and two touchdowns to running back Boston Scott. Washington owns the No. 8 rushing defense this season.

View rare photos of the all-time series between the New York Giants and the Washington Commanders.

Late-season surge of Carter & Smith

The Giants have had two players really stand out on defense over the last few weeks, starting with linebacker Lorenzo Carter. He has at least one sack in three straight games, combining for four to go with two forced fumbles and three pass breakups. The 26-year-old has earned one of the highest grades on the Giants defense from Pro Football Focus during the last three weeks, earning overall grades of 72.0, 66.5 and a 90.8 against the Cowboys, in which he was named to PFF's Team of the Week. In 13 games this season, Carter has a 78.7 coverage grade, which is the eighth-highest among all edge defenders.

Jaylon Smith, who signed with the Giants prior to their Week 15 matchup against the Cowboys, has totaled 14 tackles (eight solo) and one sack over three games. His overall grade of 78.6 last week was the highest on the defense. In the past two games, he has received pass rush grades of 72.2 and 71.0, while his coverage grades since joining the Giants have been consistently strong - 77.5, 66.0 and 79.4. His 66.5 overall grade on the season (including limited action in six games with the Cowboys and Packers) ranks 18th among NFL linebackers, while his impressive 80.5 coverage grade is the fourth-best mark at the position.

Washington scouting report

Taylor Heinicke has started at quarterback for most of the season, going 6-8 in his 14 starts. Heinicke has completed 65.5 percent of his passes for 3,299 yards, 20 touchdowns and 15 interceptions for a passer rating of 86.5. He has added 58 rush attempts for 310 yards (5.3 avg.) and a touchdown.

Heinicke is Washington's second-leading rusher, but the run game clearly revolves around second-year back Antonio Gibson. In 15 games this season, Gibson has run for 891 yards on 237 carries, just 3.8 yards per carry, with six touchdowns. Gibson also ranks third on the team with 41 receptions, totaling 289 yards and three touchdowns. He missed last week's game in COVID protocol.

Washington recently placed pass-catching back J.D. McKissic on injured reserve. He was the team's second-leading receiver with 43 receptions for 397 yards, so rookie Jaret Patterson has had to step up. Patterson set season highs with 57 yards and a TD on 12 carries (4.8 avg.) while catching five passes for 41 yards.

Due to various injuries, Washington has only had one of its starting pass-catchers start every game this season. Terry McLaurin is miles ahead of his teammates in every receiving category with his 73 receptions for 960 yards and five touchdowns. Their second-leading healthy receiver is Adam Humphries with 40 receptions for 380 yards.

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