If we can take New York Giants head coach Ben McAdoo at his word that the Giants will use their starters and play to win Sunday’s season-finale against the Washington Redskins we could be in for a treat when the Redskins have the ball.
On paper, the game matches one of the league’s most high-powered offense (ninth in scoring, third in yards, second in passing yards) vs. a Giants’ defense ranked third in points allowed and second in the NFL in Football Outsiders’ defensive efficiency metric.
In other words, a matchup of strength vs. strength. If, of course, the Giants play their best players a significant length of time and bring their “A” game to FedEx Field.
By the numbers
Points per game: 25.7 (9th)
Yards per game: 411.3 (3rd)
Passing yards per game: 300.8 (2nd)
Rushing yards per game: 110.5 (14th)
Points per game: 18.3 (3rd)
Yards per game: 343.4 (11th)
Passing yards per game: 251.5 (22nd)
Rushing yards per game: 91.9 (7th)
Through the air
The Redskins have one of the most prolific aerial attacks in the NFL, second overall in passing yardage. Pierre Garcons (75 receptions, 945 yards), Jamison Crowder (65 receptions), Jordan Reed (61 catches), DeSean Jackson (54 catches, 18.0 yards per catch), Chris Thompson (43 receptions) and Vernon Davis (42 catches) give quarterback Kirk Cousins a plethora of options.
The Giants, when healthy, are as well-equipped as any team in the league to handle a team with a deep corps of wide receivers. Janoris Jenkins has the league’s lowest burn rate among defensive backs, with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie also in the top 10. Safety Landon Collins has played well enough to be in the Defensive Player of the Year discussion. Cornerback Eli Apple has had a good rookie campaign, as has undrafted rookie safety Andrew Adams.
Football Outsiders ranks the Giants No. 1 in the league vs. the No. 1 wide receiver from opposing teams, which is mostly due to the the work of Jenkins. Of course, Jenkins missed last Thursday’s game with a bruised back, and how much he plays against the Redskins is anyone’s guess. Football Outsiders ranks the Giants fifth against No. 1 wide receivers and seventh against other opposing wide receivers.
If Jenkins doesn’t play, or if the Giants limit starter snaps and Trevin Wade, Coty Sensabaugh and Leon Hall see significant playing time the equation changes.
Where the Giants struggle is in covering tight ends, with Football Outsiders ranking them 25th in the league.
The Giants might catch a break there, though, because Reed has been limited in recent weeks with a shoulder ailment and has just two catches in the past two games. Reed had four catches for 56 yards against the Giants
On the ground
The Giants have been solid against the run all season, although the absences of Jenkins and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul did show up at times last week against the Eagles. If Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison and Johnathan Hankins play the majority of the game that should continue.
Rookie running back Rob Kelly carried only four times for seven yards against the Giants Week 3, but since Week 8 Kelly has been Washington’s primary back. He has double-digit carries in all but one of the Redskins’ last eight games. He has 671 yards rushing on the season and averages 4.3 yards per carry.
Matchup to watch
Despite what McAdoo has said about playing starters I am not counting on Jenkins playing a lot on Sunday. Nor do I think Reed plays a lot for the Redskins.
Thus, the matchup to watch will be four-time Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams of Washington against Vernon, the Giants’ talented defensive end. Vernon leads the Giants with 8.5 sacks, is second in the league in quarterback hurries with 35 and has been one of the best run-defending ends in the league this season.