As of now, it is difficult to predict how the season will pan out for these two teams, who have played each other more than they have any other opponent in each team's history.
The Giants have lost some firepower on offense and suffered a slew of injuries on defense, and the Redskins are only entering year two of the Mike Shanahan regime.
Here are five matchups to watch for in Sunday's game.
It’s no secret that Jim Haslett’s defense will try to get after Eli Manning in Sunday’s NFC East showdown. Throwing a career-high 25 interceptions last season, Eli has demonstrated that, with the right amount of pressure, he can and will be rattled. Even more troubling for the Giants is that their starting left tackle, third-year player Will Beatty, has only started six games in his career.
On the other side, fellow third-year player Brian Orakpo has quickly emerged as one of the league’s top pass-rushers. Much of the Giants' success in the passing game this week will depend on Beatty’s ability to protect Manning’s blind side, which is somewhat of a scary thought for Giants fans.
Hakeem Nicks has quietly turned himself into one of the top play-making WRs in the NFL, and perhaps, the Giants' top offensive threat. With the loss of TE Kevin Boss and fellow WR Steve Smith, Nicks will be relied on even more to provide sparks for this New York offense. In my opinion, the former North Carolina standout has what it takes.
Nicks will be doing most of his work in Sunday’s game against Pro Bowl MVP DeAngelo Hall, whose play is the epitome of inconsistent. On one play Hall will look like the best corner in the league, jumping a hook route and taking it back for a touchdown. On the next play, however, he might look lost in man coverage and get blown by for a score.
Against Nicks on opening day, Hall must remain disciplined or he runs the risk of getting burnt.
The Giants' defense has been heavily plagued by injuries this preseason, almost to the point of absurdity, and no position may have been affected more than their linebacker corps.
Now, with Osi Umenyiora and rookie DT Marvin Austin out for Sunday’s game, the Giants' mediocre trio of backers will be asked not only to fill against the run, but to cover as well, as Mike Shanahan loves to use two-TE sets.
In high school we called it the TE dump. Surely, Shanahan has a different name for it, but the basic premise it that the tight end releases off the line, faking as if he is going to block, and then cuts toward the middle of the field looking for a quick dump pass from the QB.
The play is simple but effective, and with the Redskins’ talent at TE and the Giants’ lack of depth at LB, even if Cooley doesn’t play, it should be called often. Additionally, Fred Davis has lost around 15 pounds this offseason and looks almost like a hybrid tight end/wide receiver. He should provide matchup nightmares for the Giants’ linebackers.
Both were 2010 first-round draft picks. Both are expected to make big strides heading into their second years in the league.
Williams, often criticized for his work ethic, has slimmed down considerably and shown flashes in the preseason of being the dominant left tackle the Shanahans believe he can be.
On the other side of the ball, Pierre-Paul has bulked up this offseason in an attempt to show he can be more than just a pure-speed pass-rusher. I expect both players to improve greatly this season, and the bottom line is that this should be a flat-out fun matchup to pay attention to.
Everyone, especially Chicago Bears’ fans, knows the reputation of good Rex, bad Rex. Not since Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has America seen a more troubling split personality. One week, he’s going 21-28 for 300 yards and three TDs, and the next he’s 11-30 for 117 yards and two picks while fumbling the ball every time he gets hit.
Last year, Eli also demonstrated a tendency to commit costly turnovers and make poor decisions. This Sunday, both QBs face very solid defenses that like to take advantage of mistakes, and it will be critical to their respective teams' success that they manage the game and take care of the ball.