3TFO: Giants @ Redskins, Week 13
It wasn’t long ago when this game looked like it could be an important chapter in an unlikely story of redemption. The Redskins had a Week 9 overtime win over the Chargers to move to 3-5, and fans recalled that they were 3-6 last season before winning out to take the NFC East title. The Giants rebounded from an 0-6 start to win four straight games and move just one-and-a-half games out of the division lead.
But after the Redskins’ three straight losses and the Giants’ crushing last-second defeat to the Cowboys last week, this game looks like it will be more about pride than playoffs. Let’s examine the matchups that could decide which of these squads starts December off on a positive note, and which sinks further down the NFC East standings.
Giants Run Blocking vs. Redskins Front Seven
It’s hard to believe that the Giants lost to the Cowboys given how they spent most of the game running the ball at will. Averaging 6.7 yards on 30 carries, it was the first time since 1995 that New York rushed for over 200 yards in defeat. Andre Brown and Brandon Jacobs both had confident cuts and aggressive finishes, but plenty of credit also goes to the blocking in front of them. Kevin Boothe slid over to center when Jim Cordle was injured and earned the highest run block grade we’ve ever given him. Guards David Diehl and James Brewer also posted career-high run block marks as they handled Dallas’ defensive tackles and crushed their linebackers on the second level. Altogether, the Giants averaged 4.1 rushing yards before contact versus the Cowboys.
The Redskins have had some of their own struggles against the run this season. Of their current starting front seven, only Brian Orakpo and Jarvis Jenkins have a positive run defense grade this season. Stephen Bowen, who leads Washington’s defensive ends in run stops, was placed on injured reserve this week. And London Fletcher has been a shell of himself, with an awful 5.2 Run Stop Percentage and the worst run defense grade of any inside linebacker in the league. The Giants want to run the ball to take the pressure off their inconsistent passing game, and they may find success against this Redskins front.
Who Has The Edge?
Speaking of the running game, the Redskins racked up a whopping 455 yards on the ground in two games against the Giants last season, with 264 of them coming on runs outside the tackles. Jason Pierre-Paul earned the best run defense grade of any 4-3 defensive end in 2012, but he was frustrated by the read-option in his two meetings with Washington. He’s still Top 10 in that category this season, but he was clearly limited against Dallas by a shoulder injury. For the first time since his rookie season, Pierre-Paul played less than half the team’s defensive snaps. Mathias Kiwanuka was helpless in reserve, earning a career-low -5.1 grade in a season where he’s our second-worst-graded 4-3 defensive end. This duo came up mostly empty against Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith and they don’t face an easier matchup this week against Trent Williams, who currently has the sixth-highest grade of any left tackle this season.
On the right side the Redskins are anchored by the rejuvenated Tyler Polumbus. After earning the worst overall grade of any right tackle last season, he now has the third-best mark at his position this year. Justin Tuck is having a rebound season in his own right, earning the fourth-highest run defense grade at his position. Though his pass rush hasn’t returned to its old levels, he is second on the team with 21 defensive stops. This should be a good matchup of two veterans trying to prove that they can still play at a high level, as the Redskins will attack the edge early and often.
Eli Manning vs. Robert Griffin III
These two won’t be on the field at the same time, but the game will likely be decided by which quarterback rises above the very low bar he’s set this season. Eli Manning’s streak of four straight seasons with a Top 10 quarterback grade looks likely to end, as he’s actually in the negatives this season. His highest grade this year, a +2.4 against the Cowboys in Week 1, is a mark he topped eight times last season. Manning’s accuracy has never been anything to write home about, but his 67.2 Accuracy Percentage this season is near the bottom of the league among names like Geno Smith, Kellen Clemens and Blaine Gabbert. Manning’s bread and butter has always been the deep ball, but his Deep Passing Accuracy has plummeted to 32.7%, far below his previous career low of 41.7. Manning penchant for interceptions is nothing new; it’s his misfires that should have Giants fans concerned.
While Manning has been consistently mediocre this year, Robert Griffin III has been boom-or-bust, posting four games with a grade better than +2.5 and six with a grade worse than -2.5. Though Griffin wowed everyone with his legs last year, his highest marks came from the passing production he was able to bring off that threat. His 1,826 yards on play action led the league, but he’s on pace for just two-thirds of that total this season. He’s using run fakes on a smaller percentage of his drop backs, but he also has been less efficient when he does use them, completing just 55.7 of those attempts versus 67.7 last season. Teams are encouraging him to stay in the pocket and beat them deep, as he already has more deep pass attempts this season than he did in all of 2012. But he hasn’t been able to make them pay, with a 29.3 Deep Pass Accuracy that is among the worst rates in the league. Locker room drama and injuries aside, it’s Griffin’s struggle to evolve as a pure passer that may ultimately derail his future.
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