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The Giants’ NFC East hopes were dimmed a little more Thursday.
The Cowboys (7-5) are now 2.5 games ahead of the Giants (4-7) after a 31-24 victory . Oakland on Thanksgiving. Dallas swept the season series with New York, giving the Cowboys the head-to-head tiebreaker.
No matter what, the Giants needed to win Sunday night’s game at Washington, which begins at 8:30 p.m. and will air on NBC 4 New York.
Now, the urgency is even stronger.
Here is our preview of Sunday night’s Giants-Redskins game:
Reasons why the Giants can win Sunday
Washington’s offense isn’t as formidable as a season ago. Entering week 13, Washington was scoring about four fewer points per game. Also, Washington is allowing about six more points per game than in 2012. That’s a recipe for a 3-8 record.
Washington’s pass defense is vulnerable. On average, opponents are gaining about 8.1 yards per passing attempt against Washington, the league’s worst mark this season. To have any shot at the playoffs, New York's passing game needs a productive December. Here’s a favorable matchup for Eli Manning and a talented receiving corps.
Washington’s special teams are a weakness. Much like the Giants, the Redskins have had execution issues in the kicking game. At the very least, the Giants should be able to play Washington to a draw in this area, and it’s quite possible Big Blue could earn the overall edge.
The Giants’ run defense is much better than it was a season ago. In 2012, Washington rolled for a combined 455 yards rushing in two matchups against Big Blue, with tailback Alfred Morris (244 yards) and quarterback Robert Griffin III (161) doing the bulk of the damage. However, the Giants are stronger against the run this season. Opponents have gained just a combined 457 yards and racked up 3.6 yards per carry in the last six games against Perry Fewell’s defense.
Washington looked overmatched in Monday night’s 27-6 loss to San Francisco. The Redskins gained just 190 yards and managed just two field goals against a tough 49ers squad. Under significant pressure, Griffin managed just 118 passing yards and was sacked six times. The loss was Washington’s third in a row and its seventh of at least seven points this season.
Reasons why the Giants could run into trouble against Washington
Washington may have bottomed out. The Redskins were embarrassed by the 49ers on Monday night. Now, Washington plays a division rival, again in front of a national audience. Given the circumstances, an improved performance from Washington wouldn’t be a huge surprise.
Washington’s offense still has plenty of playmaking ability. Griffin, Morris and wideout Pierre Garcon all must be respected, and all can give the Giants’ defense trouble on Sunday night.
The Giants’ passing game has been a disappointment. Who’s to say the Giants’ pass offense will prove much better than Washington’s pass defense? Quarterback Eli Manning has played poorly this season and is on pace to have his lowest QB rating since his rookie year.
While the Giants have shown recent improvement, they are still a 4-7 team. The Giants’ victories have come against the Vikings, Eagles, Packers and Raiders, none of whom played particularly well against Big Blue. If Washington plays something close to its best game, New York is going to be in for a battle.
The Giants haven’t had much success on the road in 2013. The Giants are just 1-4 away from MetLife Stadium. Three of their final five games are on the road.
The matchups suggest the Giants are capable of winning Sunday. However, the Giants come off a tough loss to Dallas, one that really hurt their playoff chances. If they quickly regroup and defeat Washington on Sunday night, they will merit much credit for their resilience. However, they could be due for a little bit of a regression after a draining, damaging defeat.
Predicted score: Redskins 27, Giants 20