December 19, 2009

There's Still Football To Be Played: MNF vs. Giants

With all the hype surrounding the hiring of new GM Bruce Allen, everyone in the DC area seemingly forgot that there's still three weeks of football to be played.

Even with the season over in terms of play-off hopes, the Redskins have been playing great football. In fact, you could make the case that the Redskins have been outplaying both the Giants and Cowboys the past month.

I have to say this makes me proud. The 'Skins are taking pride in playing hard, and it's paying off. Meanwhile, the Giants and Cowboys are both in the hunt, but they certainly aren't playing like it.

I honestly think the 'Skins could win the next two games against these two teams. Neither team has matched Washington's intensity the past month.

The 'Skins need to win one of them. They have yet to win an NFC East matchup, and they must avoid the embarrassment of going 0-6. Their first opportunity comes this Monday Night against the Giants in front of national audience.

The Giants are coming off a tough 45-38 loss to Philadelphia in which they gave up 30 first half points. Their defense failed to pressure Donovan McNabb (one sack), and they fumbled the ball away four times.

The Giants defense has struggled to find its identity in 2009. They came into the year with high hopes, but the loss of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has seemingly had a devastating impact.

New York is ranked 9th in the NFL in total defense, but they have been abysmal the past few weeks. Since week six on October 18th, they have given up 20 or more points in every game. That's eight games in a row.

On the season, New York has given up 25.4 points per game. They have given up 40+ points three times and have looked incredibly fragile against both the run and the pass.

Injuries have also caused problems. DBs Corey Webster (knee) and Aaron Ross (hamstring) are both questionable this week and MLB Antonio Pierce is on the IR. Overall, the Giants have used nine different combinations for their defensive starting lineup.

The Redskins offense has been on a roll recently, and they could continue their surge against New York.

It's interesting this season because Washington is actually experiencing more success passing the ball. Usually the 'Skins have struggled to establish much through the air, but this year, Jason Campbell has elevated his game in the absence of Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts.

I like the matchup of Campbell vs. the Giants defense. The Giants pass rush is underachieving this year, which is good news for the Redskins depleted O-line corps. New York is ranked just 22nd in the NFL with 26 sacks.

Since their Thanksgiving game vs. Denver, the Giants have registered just four sacks in three games. Tony Romo dropped back 57 times two weeks ago, and they were able to get to him just twice.

Washington will most likely be without right tackle Stephon Heyer and that will only make things harder on the O-line. The line hasn't been dreadful, but it has struggled to give Campbell adequate time to throw.

Even with the pressure, Campbell has managed to make the most of his opportunities. His reads are quicker, his movements are more decisive, and he has been able to avoid the pass rush.

If Campbell can continue to diffuse the pressure by getting the ball out of his hand quickly, the Redskins could replicate the offensive success they have been having again this Monday night.

Kevin Dockery and Terrell Thomas both are expected to get starts at CB. Michael Johnson will come back into the starting lineup at free safety while rookie Bruce Johnson will play at nickel corner.

Bruce Johnson has been targeted often as of late. His inexperience is evident and the 'Skins will look to exploit that. Dockery has been in the coaching doghouse all year. Strong safety Aaron Rouse is a liability in coverage as well.

So the Redskins need to throw early and often while hoping Campbell can withstand the pressure.

The Redskins have an edge on offense not only because of their passing game. The running game hasn't been flashy, but it picks up consistent yardage.

Quinton Ganther has quietly been effective (4.2 YPC), and Ganther, Rock Cartwright, and Marcus Mason have shown an ability to finish runs. Last week in the second half against Oakland, the three backs were all able to turn three and four yard carries into six or seven yard carries.

Not a fancy ground attack, but at the moment it is a legitimate supplement to the passing game. It can set up more makeable third downs and it keeps the defense honest. Quite frankly, that's all Campbell needs.

We'll check out the defense and its matchup against Eli tomorrow.

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