Victor Cruz and the New York Giants narrowly defeated the Washington Redskins in a thrilling Week 7 clash.
The New York Giants have everything to play for on Monday night in Washington. A victory against their division rival Washington Redskins will put the Giants in firm control of the NFC East. In a game with major playoff implications, both teams will be prepared for an intense affair in the nation's capital.
Monday night features a rematch of an enthralling Week 7 game at MetLife Stadium. Eli Manning's 77-yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz late in the fourth quarter helped secure a 27-23 victory for Big Blue. The urgency that comes with late-season December games should help provide an equally entertaining encounter in Week 13.
The Giants must take advantage of the fact that they have already seen Robert Griffin III and the explosive Washington offense this season.
New York heads into hostile territory Monday night knowing a win helps its playoff chances immensely. Here are five keys to victory for the defending champs against an upstart Redskins team.
The Giants must lean heavily on Ahmad Bradshaw and the running game on Monday night. Big Blue's offense can be prolific when they are able to run the ball effectively. Having Bradshaw at his best allows Eli Manning to face shorter distances on third down and sets up the all-important play-action pass.
In the Giants' four losses this season, they have averaged only 84 rushing yards per game. In their seven wins, the Giants have averaged just over 132 yards on the ground.
The Giants will try to wear down Washington's defense early with the violent, downhill running of Bradshaw.
Although Andre Brown is sidelined with a broken fibula, rookie David Wilson will bolster the running game with his explosiveness on the edge. Wilson is averaging 5.3 yards per carry and brings yet another big-play threat into the fold.
Robert Griffin III has proven to be one of the most dangerous players in the NFL this year. Griffin totaled 347 all-purpose yards in Week 7 against the Giants, conveniently finding running lanes to exploit an undisciplined defensive unit.
RG3 has shown the poise of a seasoned veteran with only 11 NFL games under his belt. His sound decision-making skills are echoed by the fact that he has yet to throw more than one interception in a game.
For the Giants to have any hope in stopping Robert Griffin III, they must remain disciplined against their counterpart.
The defense's success is predicated on maintaining their gap assignments in the read/option game. New York will rely on Justin Tuck's keen recognition skills and Jason Pierre-Paul's freakishly athletic abilities on the edge.
The Giants should be able to take advantage of a paltry pass defense on Monday night. Washington's defensive backs have been victimized to the tune of 301.4 passing yards allowed per game, ranking 31st in the league.
The Redskins have allowed 41 pass plays of over 20 yards this season. Their inability to limit opposing wide receivers should have Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks chomping at the bit on a national stage.
If Victor Cruz's game-winning touchdown in Week 7 is any indication, big plays will be attained against the Redskins on Monday night.
The early-November swoon the Giants experienced this year was due in large part to pass-protection breakdowns. In the two losses to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, the Giants allowed six sacks. The six games prior to that losing streak saw New York concede only four total sacks (5-1 during that span).
Right tackle David Diehl has been over-matched since returning from an MCL injury. Diehl regained his starting role during those two November losses and never quite gained his bearings on the field.
Inserting nine-year veteran Sean Locklear back on the offensive line will shore up the Giants' pass-protection schemes in a loud and hostile environment. Keeping Manning clean in the pocket will be pivotal in helping find receivers deep down the field.
The Giants have developed a habit of playing down to the level of their competition, something which has caused fans plenty of heartache over the years. New York's losses this season have come to teams with a combined record of 20-24.
One week removed from destroying the Green Bay Packers at home, Tom Coughlin will need to have his team focused on the task at hand in D.C.
The Giants must view this game as a golden opportunity to separate themselves from the pack in the NFC East. A chance to come one step closer to repeating as division champs should have Big Blue riled up and ready to go on Monday Night Football.