Warpath Preview: Redskins vs. Giants

Warpath Preview: Redskins vs. Giants--If the Redskins can tackle Tiki Barber and slow down their ends, they have a good shot at beating the Giants.

Got to stop: Tiki Barber. How's that for analysis? But it's imperative that the Redskins put the game on Eli Manning's shoulders. He's struggled of late with only two touchdowns and six interceptions in the past three games. Manning looks every bit a second-year quarterback, albeit one with talent. But he's missing receivers, some of whom (Plaxico Burress) show their disapproval. Luckily for the Giants, Manning stays calm, which is why he excels in the fourth quarter -- when he's one of the NFC's highest-rated quarterbacks.

How to stop Barber: By tackling, something the Chiefs forgot to do last week. The Redskins didn't do such a hot job the first time, either. Part of the problem was that New York ran opposite its tendencies. It also didn't help that Washington took poor angles on some runs and missed tackles. Barber is running harder and smarter these days. He has tremendous balance, so any arm tackles will be ineffective. The corners must do a good job in run support, as they usually have. One thing they do well is get upfield fast, forcing the backs to turn up a bit quicker and usually into a few defenders. More is needed Saturday.

Banged-up: Both teams have injury problems on the line. New York could be without its left tackle, Luke Petitgout again and Washington is minus right guard Randy Thomas. Both players have veterans behind them, so both should survive. But it changes things for Washington as Ray Brown simply does not have Randy Thomas' athleticism. It will alter how they run some outside plays. Perhaps they'll use the H-back to pull more than usual. The Giants also likely will start two reserve linebackers.

Offensive key: Running wide. Teams have done well against New York doing this the past two weeks, with a combined 361 yards rushing. The Giants' linebackers are not getting to the ball. This is an area Washington must exploit if it hopes to win. Clinton Portis and the ground game have been terrific of late; the blocking has been superb as the Redskins have used plenty of three tight-end sets. Look for more of the same. Why go away from it now?  

Motivation: Forget the Pro Bowl snub and the 36-0 drubbing; the only thing motivating Washington right now is making the playoffs. This is a group focused on reaching the postseason. They don't need extra motivation. It makes a nice storyline, but that's about it.

Need to stop: The Giants' defensive ends. If New York can pressure with these two, it will be a long day for Mark Brunell and the Redskins' offense. Omi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan are the NFL's best rush tandem and it's hard to double-team both. If Chris Samuels is a true Pro Bowl player, he must show it this week.

Don't forget: New York is the first team to really double team Santana Moss, starting a trend and exposing the lack of a second wideout. H-back Chris Cooley did not have a good day, either. He needs to be a key, but a plus is the return of James Thrash. He's not dangerous, but he is a professional and will run the right routes and compete. That will help.

One last thing: Have a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, etc. And please remember those serving in Iraq as well as others who have bigger worries than who wins between the Redskins and Giants.

Prediction: Washington can't duplicate last week's effort. How many teams could? But the Redskins don't have to. They just need to be solid all the way around, not commit turnovers and limit Tiki Barber. They can do all of that. And playing at home for a second straight big game has to help. The Redskins creep closer to the playoffs. They have a ''look'' about them. Redskins 21, Giants 17.


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