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Skins-Giants first take

Skins-Giants first take

My initial impression of the upcoming Washington Redskins-New York Giants game is that this is a winnable game for the Redskins.

That doesn't mean that I'm going to pick them to win. I'm not sure about that just yet. But it doesn't seem to me that this is as daunting a task as one normally would think that going into the house of the defending Super Bowl champs would be.

No disrespect intended for the Giants here. I'm not one of those who calls their run to the title last year a fluke or anything like that. Three road wins in the playoffs, two of them against the #1 and #2 seeds, and then beating the supposedly unbeatable team ready to be crowned as the Greatest of All Time in the Super Bowl is no fluke.

The championship run is history. So is the last meeting between these two teams, a 22-10 win for the Skins in Week 15, a game that was not as close as the final score indicated. Eli Manning threw a mind-numbing, record-setting 35 incomplete passes. Clinton Portis rushed for 126 yards on 26 carries. The Redskins were in charge of the contest throughout, building a 22-3 lead in the third quarter that emptied out Giants Stadium early.

If you'd told any of those chilled, disgusted fans then that their team would be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in a little less than two months, you would have gotten some strange looks. If you'd told them then that the Redskins would be returning to that stadium in the teams' first game of 2008, most would have looked for a place to bet the Redskins.

So, the question is: Are the Giants a better team now than they were on December 16, 2007?

In regards to personnel, the answer would seem to be no, they are worse. The loss of Osi Umenyiora to injury added to the retirement of Michael Strahan puts a couple of major dents into the defensive line. Fortunately for the Giants the position was one of great strength and depth. Justin Tuck is a quality replacement and while linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka
may develop into a good DE some day, there still is a dropoff from Strahan and Osil.

Tight end Jeremy Shockey was injured and put out for the season in that December game. Kevin Boss starts in his place and while he caught a few key passes down the stretch, the Shockey trade may end up being one of those that seemed to be a good idea at the time, but later on maybe not so much.

Manning certainly rebounded from that dismal showing in the swirling Jersey winds with a nice showing in the postseason. He threw for 854 yards with six TD's to one INT for a 95.7 rating during the playoffs. His confidence—and, just as important, his teammates' confidence in him—grew by the game.

Confidence was what the run was all about. It was at a low point after the loss to the Skins. The next week against the Bills, the G-Men were in danger of missing the playoffs altogether as they bumbled and stumbled and trailed a pesky Bills team in Buffalo.

They came back and won that game to clinch a playoff spot, and then gave the Patriots all they could handle in the season finale. They got on a roll that didn't stop until they dashed New England's dreams of grandeur in Arizona.

But it's seven months later now. Can momentum carry itself through spring and summer, through ring ceremonies and mall openings, through writing books and collecting accolades? If the answer is yes, can Big Mo make up for the absence of Umenyiora and Strahan?

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Need to Know: Assessing the Redskins' four remaining opponents

Need to Know: Assessing the Redskins' four remaining opponents

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, December 10, one day before the Washington Redskins play the Philadelphia Eagles.

Timeline

Today's schedule: No media availability

Days until: Panthers @ Redskins 9; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 14; Giants @ Redskins, New Year’s Day 22

Injuries of note:
Out:
G Long (concussion), S Blackmon (concussion), DE Lanier
Limited: TE Reed (shoulder), G Scherff (ankle), DE Jean Francois (knee/foot), DE Baker (ankle), G Shawn Lauvao (groin)
Final injury report

Around Redskins Park

The Redskins have four games remaining on their schedule. Three wins would give them a record of 9-6-1 and a very good shot at the playoffs. Four will almost certainly get them a ticket to keep playing; two wins or fewer will have them needing a whole lot of help to make the postseason

Let’s take a look at the Redskins’ remaining four opponents and revisit the confidence level on the Redskins’ chances of beating each one of them. (I first did this exercise a few weeks ago).

@Eagles, 5-7, weighted DVOA via Football Outsiders, 15.3% (ranked 5th)
The Eagles looked like playoff contenders for about half of the season but they have taken a tumble back to earth, losing five of their last six. Right now the Redskins are the better team, although their long injury list is an area for concern. The Eagles appear to be in some degree of disarray after their coach accused some unnamed players of giving less than full effort. Confidence that the Redskins will win: High

Panthers, 4-8, DVOA -7.5% (25th)
They won’t be able to defend their NFC championship much longer. By the time this game comes around they could be either eliminated or on the verge of being mathematically out of the playoffs. Their problems are numerous including big issues at cornerback (too bad they didn’t have a guy who could have helped franchise tagged) and an offensive line that has been injury-wracked all year. Still, Cam Newton is a scary quarterback and he still has tight end Greg Olsen and receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Ted Ginn Jr. If the Redskins get into a shootout they could be in trouble. Confidence: Moderately high

@Bears, 3-9, DVOA -3.0%, (24th)
Matt Barkley is the Bears’ third starting QB this season and in most statistical categories he’s the worst of the three. The Bears have been hit by injuries as hard as any NFL team with multiple starters on injured reserve. They probably would have struggled even with those players healthy; without them they are one of the five worst teams in the NFL. The one thing to beware of is the late December weather in Chicago, which could randomize the outcome to an extent. Confidence: Very high

Giants, 8-4, DVOA 5.0%, (12th)
The new players on the Giants’ defense were just starting to gel when end Jason Pierre-Paul’s season ended after sports hernia surgery. Their defense, with the No. 7 DVOA (-9.6%), won’t collapse but it won’t be as strong. Eli Manning’s stats are down a tick from last year but as long as he has Odell Beckham to throw to the Giants won’t be totally stymied on offense. This one is hard to get a good feel for this far out, not knowing what might be at stake for either team. Confidence: Moderate

For comparison purposes, the 6-5-1 Redskins have a DVOA of 9.8% (10th)

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Final injury report: Three Redskins out for Sunday

Final injury report: Three Redskins out for Sunday

Redskins

Out

C Spencer Long (concussion)—He missed the second half of the Cardinals game and has been in the concussion protocol this week. John Sullivan will start in his place.

S Will Blackmon (concussion)—Blackmon also has been in the concussion protocol and has not practiced all week. Donte Whitner and Duke Ihenacho will handle the safety position.

DE Anthony Lanier (leg)—The reserve lineman missed the Arizona game with a leg contusion. Gruden said he was kicked in the lower leg against the Cowboys and the swelling is still an issue.

Questionable

G Shawn Lauvao (groin)—It was a surprise to see him watching practice on Wednesday as no injury had been reported for him. But he came in for treatment and did not practice on Wednesday and Thursday. If he can’t go, Arie Kouandjio will start at left guard.

OT Ty Nsekhe (ankle)—Fortunately Trent Williams is back from his suspension; Nsekhe was the starter while he was out. If Nsekhe is out, Vinston Painter will be the swing backup tackle.

TE Jordan Reed (shoulder)—After missing last week’s game with a third-degree separation of the AC join in his left shoulder, Reed was able to practice on a limited basis this week. If range of motion is still an issue he could sit or play very limited snaps. If it’s a matter of pain tolerance he will be a full go.  

G Brandon Scherff (ankle)—He has been limited in practice during the week but it seems certain that he will go against the Eagles.

DE Chris Baker (ankle)—Baker missed some practice this week but he should be able to go against the Eagles although his level of effectiveness will bear watching.

Also questionable for the Redskins: DE Ricky Jean Francois (knee), OLB Preston Smith (groin), ILB Will Compton (hip), TE Derek Carrier (knee)

Eagles

Questionable

WR Jordan Matthews (ankle) and RB Ryan Matthews (knee) were full in practice all week and it seems likely that the Eagles’ leading receiver and rusher, respectively, will play on Sunday. Up in the air is the status of WR Dorial Green-Beckham (oblique), who missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday.

RT Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee) will miss his third straight game. He had a rough start in his NFL debut against the Redskins in Week 6 but he remained the starter until getting injured in Week 11. Since then the Eagles have moved LG Alan Barbre to right tackle with Stefen Wisniewski going in at left guard.