Let's look at five things to watch this Sunday as the New York Giants travel to face the Washington Redskins in a game that will set up what the race for the NFC East title will look like the rest of the way.
Can the Giants handle their business?
The NFC East has basically been offered to the Giants on a silver platter. Injuries and ineptitude have pretty much swept aside the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles, appearing to leave the Giants only with the task of dispatching with the Redskins.
An any Giants fans well knows, Big Blue never seems to take the easy road. The highway to the playoffs has been paved for them. Will they jump on it, or will they choose to detour and take the harder, more treacherous path? We will find out Sunday afternoon.
Which Kirk Cousins will show up?
The Washington quarterback has started against the Giants three times. He is 0-3 with a 51.9 completion percentage, two touchdowns, eight interceptions and a passer rating of 48.6 in those games.
This season, though, Cousins and the Redskins are 4-1 at FedEx Field. In those five home games Cousins has completed 75.7 percent of his passes, thrown 10 touchdown passes with just two interceptions, and has a passer rating of 112.8.
Which Cousins will the Giants see Sunday, the guy they have seen playing against them or the one who has given Washington fans hope for the future with his play in many games this season?
Impact of defensive reinforcements
The Giants, of course, got Jason Pierre-Paul back two games ago. They expect to have cornerback Prince Amukamara back in the lineup this Sunday for the first time since Week 5. They could also have starting linebacker J.T. Thomas and middle linebacker Uani 'Unga back for the first time in several weeks.
The addition of Amukamara should be the biggest help to a defense that remains last in the league in passing yards allowed and 31st overall in yards per game surrendered. Amukamara is both a better cover guy and a better run defender/tackler than his replacement, Jayron Hosley. Thomas was playing pretty much full time before injuring an ankle, so the Giants will also be happy to have him back. Jasper Brinkley has played well at middle linebacker, but perhaps 'Unga could find a role in nickel packages.
Can Giants fix running game, red zone woes?
Those two things really go together. We have talked about how poorly the Giants run the ball and ow that has impacted their red zone offense. We have made our own suggestions as to how the Giants might go about fixing both of those things. Sunday, we find out if the Giants' self study has led them to any ideas of their own.
Can Giants avoid special teams mistakes?
The giants have, for the most part, been outstanding on special teams this season. In recent weeks, though, costly miscues in punt coverage have contributed heavily to losses to the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots. The Redskins have two kickoff return touchdowns this season, including one against the Giants. The Giants need to get back to winning the special teams portion of games.