Redskins Gameday Matchup

Remember when Joe Gibbs' teams used to own December. His teams finished with a winning record in the final month 11 times in his first stint. Of course, he had better personnel. But if this group wants to establish anything for next year, now's the time. And with games against the Giants, Niners and Cowboys this month, they have a chance to get a little momentum.

Sometimes, those late season wins mean nothing for the future. But for this group they do. They've continued to work hard, stay positive and supportive of the coaches and one another. Guys like that get rewarded and if they can squeeze out 3-2 record in the final five games, that would matter to them.

Taylor time: Watch how many plays Sean Taylor makes Sunday. He's really starting to play like the fifth overall pick in the draft. And because of his speed the Redskins can use coverages that few other teams can. Taylor's feet help disguise more coverages, giving Gregg Williams another advantage. Taylor seems to stun quarterbacks with how much ground he can cover, making a play appear open when it isn't. He's a nice weapon to counter Jeremy Shockey.

Good matchup: But Taylor won't always be the one on Shockey. That duty often will fall to linebacker Marcus Washington, who is usually strong in coverage. Shockey leads the Giants in receiving with 44 catches, but hasn't had his best year with too many drops.

Trouble spot: The Giants' third-down defense stinks. They're allowing 40.7 percent of those plays to be converted into first downs, a horrible figure. The Giants have allowed 16 touchdown passes, so maybe the Redskins finally can get something going in this area. There will be plays open downfield if they can protect Patrick Ramsey. And if Ramsey makes wise decisions. We'll know if Ramsey is maturing by the way he manages this game. He needs to take shots -- they will be available -- but he can't force throws.

Portis sits?: Where did that crazy rumor start? Joe Gibbs adamantly denied any such thing, but Clinton Portis' second-half benching against Pittsburgh raised eyebrows. They did need a bigger back in the game, like a Ladell Betts. But look for Portis to have a strong game Sunday. After all, the Giants allow 4.5 yards per carry (compared to Washington's 3.1). That stinks.

Welcome back: Right guard Randy Thomas made a remarkable recovery from his hamstring injury and will start Sunday. When Gibbs looks back on this season, he'll be warmed by the efforts of players like this and Lavernaues Coles, among many others, who have played in obvious pain. Those who haven't played couldn't do so. But no one would have thought twice had Thomas not played. Or if Coles had sat out a game or two.

Eli's inefficiency: In his first 21 drives (excluding two that ended because of the half), Eli Manning has led the Giants on only four scoring drives. And 12 drives ended in four plays or less.

Barber's shop: Tiki Barber is having a great season, with 1,145 yards rushing and another 496 receiving. This despite a bad line and shoddy quarterback play -- like some other team we know. But in his career, Barber has rushed for more than 100 yards only once against Washington. That came last season, when he also rushed for 99 yards in the second meeting.

Prediction: The Redskins pressure the heck out of Eli Manning, forcing him into two interceptions as they finally win again, 17-7.


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