The (5-6) Washington Redskins host the (7-4) Super Bowl Champion New York Giants on Monday Night Football at FedEx Field with kickoff set for just after 8:30 PM ET, and extensive all-day coverage live from the stadium beginning at NOON, on ESPN 980.
The Giants beat the Green Bay Packers, 38-10 to snap a two game slide last Sunday night at MetLife Stadium. The Redskins have won two in a row, defeating the Dallas Cowboys 38-31 on Thanksgiving Day. Clearly, they are the much more rested team - as they were given four full days off since that game, along with five practices in the interim. The Giants took Tuesday and Wednesday off.
With the stage set, let's go "Inside the Numbers" for this huge showdown, and the most important regular season game for the Redskins since December 2007.
***The Giants beat the Redskins in Week 7, 27-23 as Victor Cruz blew past Josh Wilson and Madieu Williams for the game winning 77-yard touchdown with just over a minute left. It was the beginning of a three-game losing streak for Washington, and put the defense's total yardage allowed at 393 yards for the day. Without the score, (realizing the Giants were going to get other yardage) the Redskins defense would have only allowed 316 yards.
Washington allowed just 64 yards on 19 rushing attempts by New York, and forced two turnovers (Rob Jackson & Josh Wilson Interceptions) and had just one sack.
While everybody focused on the secondary meltdown - the primary reason the Redskins lost was because they turned the ball over four times, including three times while driving inside the NYG-40 yard line. Robert Griffin had an interception, and a lost fumble on a blown-up zone read. Alfred Morris had a costly lost fumble, and Santana Moss' had a fumble that ended the game. Morris had 94 of his 120 rushing yards in the first half. Griffin had 42 of his 89 rushing yards in the first half, when the Redskins did NOT turn the ball over.
If you take away the four turnovers, the Redskins only have SIX during the rest of the season, in TEN other games. Bottom line - if the Redskins do not shoot themselves in the foot - they have a great chance to win.
***Speaking of turnovers, overall the Redskins turnover differential is a sparkling + 12 (22 takeaways, 10 giveaways) to rank 3rd in the NFC/tied for 3rd in the NFL (Baltimore). That's the good news. The bad news is the Giants are Tied for 2nd in the NFL/Tied for 1st in NFC in turnover differential at + 13 (29 takeaways, 16 giveaways) . It goes without saying, that the next two Redskins home opponents are just as good (slightly better) as they are - so you can't count on turnovers winning a game for you.
***Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin is 13-7 against the Redskins, 12-5 with the Giants. Mike Shanahan is 3-5 against the Giants, 2-3 with the Redskins. Shanahan is 15-16 as a head coach on Monday Night Football, (0-2) with the Redskins. Shanahan is tied for 13th on the all-time winningest coaches list, at 170-130 overall (162-125 regular season) and with a win on Monday, would tie legendary Redskins coach Joe Gibbs for 12th on the overall list at 171. Shanahan has 29 more losses however. Coughlin is tied for 16th overall, at (161-125).
***Eli Manning surpassed Phil Simms for most touchdown passes (200) in Giants franchise history last week, but some important numbers to keep in perspective for Monday Night. He has led 23 regular season game-winning drives including the touchdown pass to Cruz that won the first matchup. He has one other game-winning drive against the Redskins in his career. He is (13-12) when he's thrown for over 300-yards in a game, including the victory in October (26-40, 337, TD, 2 INT). He has only one other 300-yard passing performance against Washington (11/30/08 @ FedEx), which makes him (2-0) against the Redskins when topping the 300-yard mark.
Manning is (16-19) as a starter in December overall, including a loss to the Redskins last year in East Rutherford. Eli is (3-3) in December against the Redskins. He's (7-3) on Monday Night Football, but only (16-16) in prime time. He's (42-45) as a starter when he was intercepted at least once. Out of his 200 career touchdown passes, 42 have been thrown to Hakeem Nicks (25) and Victor Cruz (17).
Manning is 11-5 career as a starter against Washington. His stats line looks like this (299-535) 55.9%, 3,587 yards, 13 TD's, 15 INT's, 24 sacks, and a 73.0 rating.
***Victor Cruz leads the Giants in receiving with 63 catches for 779 yards, 8 TD's and a 12.4 average - including the 131 yards against the Redskins. In that game, Josh Wilson pretty much trailed Cruz the entire game, with DeAngelo Hall matched up for the most part on Hakeem Nicks (41-542, 13.2, 2 TD). While it is true as Wilson asserted after the game that Cruz outside of one big play (beat Wilson from right slot in press) did not have a big game (6-54), Cruz was wide open and EASILY beat Wilson from Eli Manning's left for what should have been a easy slant pitch and throw. Manning threw it well behind the wide open speedster. It should have been a touchdown. I wouldn't be shocked to see more of DeAngelo Hall matching up on Cruz, with the taller and more physical Cedric Griffin trying to trail Hakeem Nicks more. Griffin had just returned to the Redskins secondary after a 3 + game absence due to a hamstring.
***Besides not turning the ball over, and remaining unpredictable yet dynamic on offense - it's beyond obvious that the Redskins have to do a good job against the Giants talented front. They did a hell of a job in the first half in the first matchup, but struggled in the final 30 minutes. Overall they allowed 3 sacks, but two came on one series in the fourth quarter (Pierre-Paul & Umenyiora) and then Pierre-Paul blew up Griffin's read-zone fake that fooled nobody for a forced fumble/run loss of two yards. Technically, another sack but much like the intentional grounding on the first series in Dallas last week - did not count in that category. Umenyiora is one sack away from 75 in his career. Justin Tuck is 1.5 sacks away from 50.0 and Jason Pierre-Paul is 2.5 sacks away from 30.0. Safe to say - if all three hit their individual career milestones - the Redskins are in a lot of trouble. if all three hit their marks - that would be a hard to manage, five total sacks just from that three-man wrecking crew. The Redskins offensive line officially has yielded 27 sacks over 11 games - or 2.45 per game. Washington's O-line did allow 4 sacks last week, technically 5.
***The Redskins have some individual milestones they can accomplish on Monday night. Alfred Morris is 18 yards away from becoming the first Redskins 1,000 yard rusher since Clinton Portis in 2008. He needs 82 yards to break the franchise rookie rushing record, at 1,063 - set by Reggie Brooks in 1993. Morris is also 28 rushing attempts away from the Redskins mark for carries by a rookie (Mike Thomas -235 - 1975).
DeAngelo Hall is one interception away from the 40th of his career. and when he gets it - he would become the sixth active player to reach that number. Ryan Kerrigan is one sack away from tying his rookie mark (7.5) in 2011. Robert Griffin III has eight touchdown passes in his last two games, four in each win - but another four scoring passes wouldn't put him in rare air. Drew Brees just did it late last year, but it would certainly improve the chances for a win. Santana Moss has 7 touchdowns (2 @ NYG) and with another two-score night - he would match his Redskins high season mark at nine in 2005.
**A Redskins win would make three in a row over NFC East opponents in three consecutive weeks, which hasn't happened since 2005. They haven't won 3 in a row overall since Weeks 2-5 of the 2008 season.
***As for the numbers that really should mean something on Monday Night Football. The Redskins are finally on the move when it comes to third down conversions at 31.85% (43-125). The defense is still yielding a mostly obscene rate at (64-148) 43.24%. The Giants are almost exactly the same on offense, as they are on defense. Manning's unit is converting 38.41% on the money down and allowing 38.64% on third down defense.
The Redskins have scored ten less points than the Giants have this year (305-295), but have more passing touchdowns (hard to believe, 17-15) and have more yards from scrimmage (4,234-4,064) in less total plays run (693-NYG, 688-Wash). They also are averaging 6.4 yards per play - compared to the Giants 5.9. The ultimate neutralizer? Penalty yards. The Giants only have 48/368, while the Redskins are an ungodly 93/770. The Redskins are still the worst in the NFL at 8.5 penalties/game, while the Giants are 2nd in the league at 4.4/game. Washington is the worst in penalty yards per game at 70/game, while the Giants are 2nd at 33.5/game. In the October matchup, Washington had 7/55 (including a lost TD) and the Giants were 3/30.
The Redskins have 57 10+ rushing yard plays this year as a team, and are still averaging 162.9 yards per game on the ground, per Redskins public relations. NFL.com has them at 163.5 per game, which is # 1 in the NFL by a hair over San Francisco. The Giants were gashed for 248 yards on the ground by Washington on October 21. Overall the Giants are allowing 113.2 yards per game on the ground, and have yielded 31 rushes of 10+ yards.
***For those worried about the Redskins defense - I completely understand. However, it is important to remember that last week after going nearly seven quarters without surrendering a touchdown in the span of five days - they were kind of ripe for the picking. That also happens when you are up 28-3 and 35-13. Tony Romo threw the ball an astounding 62 times. The Redskins yielded 423 net yards passing for an average of 6.8 yards per attempt. He completed 37 of those attempts, which meant he averaged 11.4 yards per completion.
For a comparison, I was prompted to take a look at Peyton Manning's numbers from his game last Sunday against Kansas City. It was a somewhat (by Peyton's standards) pedestrian performance (22-37, 285, 2 TD, INT) in a Broncos win, 17-9. Nothing special right? Exactly. However when you look at the numbers - Manning had 273 net passing yards over the 37 attempts for a 7.37 yards per attempt rate. He also averaged 12.4 yards per pass completion.
Here's the point, Manning on a very pedestrian day for him would have thrown for 457 yards if he threw the ball as much as Tony Romo did. Tom Brady in the nightcap of Thanksgiving Day against the Jets, threw for 323 net yards on 28 attempts. That's a pretty cool rate of 11.5 yards per attempt (much higher than Manning or Romo). If he threw the ball 62 times last week, he would have thrown for 713 yards. To make the point even further, Robert Griffin III threw for 311 total yards on 28 attempts, for a rate of 11.10 yards per attempt. If you take Griffin's net passing yards, it's still 28 attempts/295 net yards or 10.53 yards per attempt. Just to provide perspective, Griffin III would thrown for 653 yards if he had 62 pass attempts, like Romo did.
It's part of the problem and blessing of having a highly efficient offense and a big lead.