1. How desperate are the Giants? Very. New York is 1-2 and has played one of the hardest schedules thus far. The Giants can't afford another loss and are playing at home. That qualifies as desperate. There's also finger-pointing at the coach, never a recipe for success.
2. Can the Redskins stop the Giants' big-play attack? That's a lot to ask of a defense that has surrendered 16 plays of 20 yards or more already; that's seven more than at this point last season. And that stinks. Without Shawn Springs, look for the Giants to go up top often. Washington must pressure Eli Manning or it'll be a long day.
3. But what is the key to stopping them? Simple: stop Tiki Barber. Last year, Barber ran all over the Redskins. The coaches claimed it was just two carries that accounted for most of the Giants' 262 yards rushing, but they were way off; New York had 10 runs of five yards or more in the first half. That's a gashing. But they must stop Barber, who got most of his yards running to his left. If they don't, it'll be a real long day. The other thing Washington must do is tackle well. Sounds obvious, but it's something they haven't done this season, which is a change from the past two years.
4. Where should the Redskins attack offensively? Right at you know who, Mr. Nickels; and right at rookie outside linebacker Gerri Wilkinson. LaVar Arrington does not do a good job taking on blockers; never has. So send Mike Sellers his way and rack up the yards. Wilkinson is too inexperienced to handle an Al Saunders offense with all the motion and shifting and misdirection. New York's young defensive tackles, particularly Barry Cofield, have actually played well. The Giants have not yielded much on the ground, but our guess is that's because teams have thrown so well on them.
5. What about the passing game? The Redskins should join other teams and attack them downfield. But Washington is at its best when it can send out four and five receivers. That leaves the line in more one-on-one situations, which they must win or Mark Brunell will be on his fanny all day. The way to help is by being balanced and running first; force the defense to honor the misdirection stuff. Then they can hit them downfield, often.
6. What are the big matchups offensively? The tackles against the defensive ends. Michael Strahan and Omi Umenyiora have not applied much pressure at all this season. But if they get one-on-one matchups most of the day (surely someone will chip them as well), then they have a good shot at getting to Brunell. Right tackle Jon Jansen is coming off his best game, but in the first three did not look as good as he had in the past. This will show if he's getting back into form. Chris Samuels has struggled against rushers like Umenyiora, who has become more varied in his rushes.
7. What are the key matchups defensively? The secondary against New York's receivers. The Giants have depth with Amani Toomer, Plaxico Burress and Tim Carter. The Redskins have one legitimate starting corner and one safety who is somewhat good in coverage. That's scary. That puts pressure on the line to harass Eli Manning. And middle linebacker Lemar Marshall has to have his best game against Tiki Barber. Marshall's understanding of playing in the middle has increased, but he hasn't been as good as last year, linebackers coach Dale Lindsey said. And the outside backers and safeties must handle Jeremy Shockey. That's a lot of tough matchups.
8. Will LA finally break out? The Giants won't make this about LaVar Arrington. He has barely rushed the quarterback in the first three games and I doubt they'd change up much. But I would look for him to come on occasion, forcing Washington to keep more in for protection. We keep hearing that Arrington doesn't look like he did a couple years ago. People keep waiting for his knee to round into shape. But, come on, it was arthroscopic surgery more than a year ago. At this point, this is what Arrington is. Still, he's so emotional for this game and that could provide the extra burst he needs. What can't happen is a big Arrington play early; that could change the entire game. And we're guessing if he does make a big play, he'll let the Redskins' sideline know -- not just Lindsey (who is up in the box), but Gregg Williams and Joe Gibbs. And even Shawn Springs; that is, if he's even on the sideline.
9. How dangerous is Eli Manning? Very, to his own team and the opposition. We keep hearing how much better he's gotten and that pass to beat Philly showed an awful lot. But he also makes a lot of plays that can hurt New York, if the opposition takes advantage. Just look at the numbers: in his last eight regular-season games, Manning has thrown 14 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
10. Will the Redskins win? Normally, I'd take the desperate team playing at home. And the Giants have done well at home against Washington the past two years. They're a team in chaos and that, for some reason, often leads to a big win. But I just don't trust New York's defense. The Redskins surrender too many big plays, but they will make more in this one. Redskins 23, Giants 21.