The NFC East appears to be up for grabs this season, giving the New York Giants and Washington Redskins hope to return to the playoffs. They’ll meet at MetLife Stadium on Thursday night to kick off Week 3 in an important divisional game.
New York has started the season at 0-2, and the 1-1 Redskins began the year as longshots to make the postseason. But the undefeated Dallas Cowboys are in trouble after losing Tony Romo for eight weeks, and the Philadelphia Eagles have lost their first two games of the season.
Being named four-point favorites at home, according to vegasinsider.com, the Giants are considered to be the better team on a neutral field. The over/under is 43.5 points at Las Vegas casinos.
Redskins Relying on the Run
A lot has been made about Washington’s decision to start Kirk Cousins over Robert Griffin III, but the team has relied largely on their running game to score points. The Redskins have 16 fewer passes than they do rushing attempts, and they've totaled just 56 more yards through the air than they have on the ground.
“There’s a strong running game there, and that is the blueprint that we have to have,” head coach Jay Gruden said after Sunday’s game. “We have a young quarterback. We don’t want to throw the ball 50 times. We want to be physical. It opens up a lot of things for us, and it controls the clock like it did again today.”
Alfred Morris leads the Redskins with 180 rushing yards, but Matt Jones has been even better in the early part of the season. The rookie has rushed for 151 yards on just 25 attempts, and he made his way into the end zone twice in Week 2.
New York hasn’t faced any top running backs yet, but they’ve been one of the best teams against the run. The Giants have surrendered 136 rushing yards on 3.0 yards per carry, both of which rank third in the NFL.
Differing Results on Defense
The defenses for New York and Washington have been on opposite sides of the spectrum through two weeks. The Redskins rank first overall in total defense, allowing just 469 yards. The Giants are second-to-last in all of football, having surrendered 838 yards to the Cowboys and Falcons.
Washington has kept opposing offenses off the field by controlling the clock with their run game, holding the ball for more than 37 minutes in both Week 1 and Week 2. Having faced the Miami Dolphins and St. Louis Rams, the Redskins will face their toughest challenge on Thursday when they try to slow down Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. Neither the Dolphins nor Rams have a wide receiver on their roster that even totaled 800 receiving yards in 2014.
New York allowed both Tony Romo and Matt Ryan to move the ball down the field. The Giants nearly beat the Cowboys because they won the turnover battle, picking Romo off twice and forcing a fumble. New York beat Washington in an early-season Thursday night contest last year when they forced Cousins to throw four interceptions.
New York’s Close Calls
The Giants are one of nine teams still looking for their first win, but they could easily be 2-0. New York had the ball in the red zone and a three-point lead over the Cowboys with less than two minutes remaining, but they managed to lose the game. They lost to the Falcons, even though they had a 10-point fourth-quarter lead, allowing Atlanta to score the game-winning touchdown with 1:14 remaining in the contest.
Tom Coughlin: "I really do think we should be better than 0-2. And I told (our team) that."
— Ralph Vacchiano (@RVacchianoNYDN) September 22, 2015
But New York hasn't simply blown late leads in the fourth quarter. They’ve lost in highly questionable fashion. Time management errors against Dallas left the Cowboys with too much time to score, and it was later revealed that Manning told running back Rashad Jennings to stay out of the end zone. The Giants had a chance to put the Falcons away late in the third quarter, but Manning lost a fumble at the Atlanta nine-yard line.
Washington’s defense has been impressive, but it probably won’t be as good when it faces a team with formidable offensive weapons. New York could be undefeated had it not been for critical mistakes late in their games. Losing games like that might be the sign of a team that lacks resolve. But the Giants should have enough this time around, by containing a Redskins offense that can't continue to rely so much on the run.
New York over Washington, 30-17