The final week of the 2016 regular season is upon us and it finds the New York Giants as an official playoff contender. However, they must finish one more game before thinking about that Lombardi trophy chase.
The G-Men travel to our nation’s capital on New Year’s Day to face off against division rival, Washington Redskins, in a matchup that means so much more for the home team. With a win the Redskins clinch their own playoff berth, giving them extra motivation on their home soil.
The Giants Beat’s, Scott Thompson, went Behind Enemy Lines with Breaking Burgundy’s, Neil Dalal, to get an insider look on the Redskins mindset coming into this final test and if fans and experts alike think they will pull out the all-decisive victory.
ST: Week 17 presents itself as an ultimatum to the Skins this week: Win and In. What has the atmosphere been like around this team knowing they hold the key to their playoff destiny Sunday?
ND: The team is saying all the right things, focusing on themselves. They are not worried about Green Bay and Detroit colluding a tie or if New York will rest their stars. They have the right attitude that they hold the key to a playoff birth and are not relying on help as they had to in order to get back to their current scenario after letting one get away against Carolina.
ST: Not only are the Skins home, but they also have much more to play for than the Giants who already have that No. 5 seed in the NFC. Do you think that makes the Redskins favorite in this one?
ND: I do because they already got embarrassed once looking like a team that had nothing to play for against Carolina a couple weeks ago. Regardless of what lineup New York has out there, I believe the Washington coaches will do a good job lighting a fire under these players to ensure they play with a higher intensity level. I am not sure they should be touchdown favorites as Vegas is currently predicting but they are certainly favorites.
ST: Another obvious storyline is yet another chapter in the Josh Norman v Odell Beckham Jr. rivalry. However, do you think it will get much attention considering the magnitude of this game?
ND: I think it will be a minor story line, because Norman will likely shadow Beckham for a lot of the game, relative to Week 3. The game has a bigger meaning than one individual matchup and both players are down playing the hype of their matchup. Norman has admitted and complimented that the only reason people look into it is because they are both two non-stop competitors.
ST: The last time these two met the Skins battled back on a 12-point deficit to beat the Giants at home. Much of that win can be credited to great offense ran by Kirk Cousins. Since the last game, how has Cousins improved since Week 3?
ND: It is hard to say Cousins has improved significantly in any one aspect of his game because he looks like a Pro Bowler in victories but an inaccurate mediocre passer in losses. That being said, he has unquestionably grown as a lead of this football team. He keeps those around him calm and poised which is an invaluable trait.
ST: The Giants have a revitalized defense this time around, one Cousins hasn't really seen yet. Do you think this will be an issue for the veteran QB?
ND: New York does indeed have a strong, well-balanced defense. Landon Collins and Janoris Jenkins anchor a good secondary, while Damon Harrison and company man the line of scrimmage. However, Cousins does not scare easily and he prepares like none other. With Washington’s strong weapons on offense, which could get some help with the plausible return of Jordan Reed, Cousins will have no issue moving the ball between the 20’s. Of course, it is what happens in the red zone that will determine the outcome.
ST: What one matchup are you most looking forward to on Sunday?
ND: I believe the game will come down to whether or not the Redskins and Rob Kelley, dealing with a knee sprain, are able to run the ball against the Giants. New York has a strong run defense and Washington has been most successful when they commit to the run. However, if New York shuts out Kelley and Washington becomes pass happy, that does not bode well for the chances of a Redskins win.
ST: Do you believe the Redskins will pull out the victory to punch their ticket to the playoffs?
ND: I do believe the Redskins will win and be the NFC’s six seed in the playoffs because at the end of the day they will want this game more than the Giants who are locked into the five seed. Although Ben McAdoo has said New York’s stars will play “the game”, insinuating the entire game to the DC media, I have an inkling Eli Manning and others may be pulled in the second half after seeing the unfortunate fates of Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota last week.