Redskins-Giants Preview: Changes ComIng for NFC East's Also-Rans

Kirk Cousins, Jerrel Jernigan among players to watch on Sunday

Thirteen NFL games to be played on Sunday, the final day of the regular season, could have an effect on the playoff picture.

On Sunday, the Redskins and Giants will meet in one of the three games without any postseason ramifications. Here is a game that just affects the draft order.

And here are two teams that will need to make good use of the draft this spring. Both rosters need work. However, the Redskins’ first-round pick — currently the No. 2 overall selection — will go to the Rams to complete the trade for Robert Griffin III.

It just hurts thinking about it.

After a disastrous campaign, a big offseason of changes could be coming in Washington. Head coach Mike Shanahan’s future seems tenuous. With a head-coaching switch comes staff changes and scheme changes. This, in turn, usually leads to roster changes. The team Washington fields Sunday could be quite different next season, though it does seem likely, however, that Griffin will be back in the starting lineup after being benched for precautionary reasons in the final three games.

The Giants will undergo some renovations, too. Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, defensive end Justin Tuck, cornerback Terrell Thomas, defensive tackle Linval Joseph, running back Andre Brown and guard David Diehl are among the Giants’ players with expiring contracts.

For a game pitting two clubs without playoff hopes, it is not a contest lacking in some interesting storylines. Redskins inside linebacker London Fletcher, a productive and reliable starter for parts of three decades, will be playing in his 256th and likely final regular-season game. There’s also the matter of whether Shanahan, who’s coached two Super Bowl winners, will ever have a chance to lead a team ever again after this season’s debacle. This could be it for him.

The season finale also offers an opportunity for younger players to play well one more time before clubs begin to plot their strategies for next season. For Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, this is the final of his three starts in place of Griffin — a golden opportunity for him to advance his career.

On the other sideline, there’s Giants third-year wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan, who has played well in the last two games in place of the injured Victor Cruz. In the last two weeks, Jernigan has materially bolstered his NFL resume. He seems likely to have a role in the Giants’ passing game in 2014, and he’s enhanced his market value in advance of free agency in 2015.

The Giants seem likely to win their season finale. They are at home, and Washington is at the end of a just horrible season. However, the outcome of Sunday’s Redskins-Giants game isn’t especially important.

The events that lead to the outcome, though, are really important for these two teams. The 2013 season is just about over. Now, it’s time to start figuring out who’s going to be part of the plan for 2014.

Prediction: Giants 24, Redskins 13

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