1. How motivated are the Giants? Well, they should be very motivated considering a win likely results in a playoff berth. But they don't sound like a team that's overly motivated at this point. Nor have they played like one. Their defense has been bad the past few weeks; their offense is inconsistent; their top rush end is done and their tight end is out. And those who cover them feel they've checked out mentally. If that's the case, a quick lead could turn this game into a season-ending rout for Washington.
2. But what about Tiki Barber? What about him? Barber is retiring after the season so there's a chance this his is the final game in his career. But he sounds like someone who moved on a few months ago and is too excited about his future to let one more loss bother him greatly. Clearly, he's still a very good back so if he has a good game against this bad defense it's not a surprise. But I don't think the fact that this is his possible swan song is enough to pull out a victory. The motivator needs to be the playoff berth.
3. What about the Redskins' motivation? Listen, a win in the season finale will NOT give them offseason momentum. One win doesn't have the power to do that, especially if there are numerous changes defensively as there might be. A strong finish involves mutliple games, not one. But they could at least point to wins in two of their last three. That's not bad. More importantly, they'll exit with an offensive identity and, they think, a quarterback of the future. That's where the offseason momentum comes from. But it appears they're still playing harder, or care more, than the Giants. This staff will return and that's always a good motivator. And this is a very professional group, which matters in these types of games. It still matters to them.
4. Who is more hurt by the injuries? Both teams will be minus key players for this game as defensive starters Marcus Washington and Shawn Springs will miss for the Redskins; Michael Strahan and Jeremy Shockey will miss for New York. All four make a huge difference. Shockey could hurt the Redskins because they can't cover tight ends; Strahan disrupts the run and pass game. But Washington is the most consistent defender and Springs the best cover corner, which matters when Plaxico Burress is on the other side. A bad defense is missing two of its top players? Not good. Still, we'll call it a wash. Also, the Redskins put ace special teamer Khary Campbell on injured reserve, replacing him with Joe Sykes. Campbell's absence will hurt a little, too. We liked Sykes in training camp, he showed decent speed, but haven't seen him since to know whether or not he's progressed.
5. Will the Redskins' offense do better than the first game in New York? Yes. The Redskins will run the ball better than they did in that October loss. In that game, New York's ends disrupted the run game by not allowing themselves to be turned in. And that allowed the linebackers to get to the ball. Minus Strahan, that will change. Also, the Redskins have changed their rush attack since that game. Contrary to popular opinion, they did not start using inside zone blocking after that point. That HAS always been a part of the plan; Joe Bugel does not like man-to-man blocking. They just devoted themselves more to a power attack, which called for more inside zone schemes. Also, the Giants' secondary is not good in man coverage. If the Redskins run well, they will get favorable coverages.
6. Will Adam Archuleta play at safety? Don't think so, not after what he said on Thursday. When he talked about being lied to, two of us who were there (hint: it was only three of us, representing the Times, the Examiner and WTEM), took it to mean he was talking somewhat hypothetically, as if he didn't want to be talked to because he feared being lied to. And he made it clear to a couple of us later that he had not been lied to. Still, it's clear this has to be his last game here. He does not fit and the defensive coaches have LaVarred him. Joe Gibbs has made it clear he will get rid of anyone who doesn't want to be here. Archuleta is not a victim here; he did not play well and he's made a ton of money. But the Redskins still have big holes at safety and Vernon Fox is absolutely not the answer there. Great story, yes. Good special teamer, yes. But he misses way too many tackles, especially last week. He had 10 tackles because of all the big plays downfield. He should have had 15.
7. What can we expect from Jason Campbell? Probably more of the same. He will have opportunities downfield, especially if they run well. But given the amount of protection he's received, Campbell should be more productive. One player felt if Mark Brunell had been the starter, with the changes that have been made in the scheme and the protection he's received, the Redskins would be fighting for a playoff berth now. Not sure about that, but it is clear there are more plays available than are being made. Campbell has grown and has shown positive signs for the future. But it would be nice for him to close with a game in which he makes big plays.
8. What's the key for the run game? The Redskins need to prevent Omi Umenyiora from controlling the end, allowing them to get off-tackle. And tackles Fred Robbins and Barry Cofield have to be controlled in the middle by center Casey Rabach. If either occupies Rabach too much, then the linebackers will run free.
9. What's the key defensively? Pressure Eli. The kid's confidence is shaken and when that happens he tends to get out of sorts. I've never liked the look on his face when things go bad; too revealing. I still remember a time in his rookie year when he hung his head after one pick. Can't imagine his brother ever doing that. Granted, he's older now, but he still gets out of whack when bad things happen. However, he's dangerous because he is talented and he does have Burress facing a secondary that, well, isn't good. The good thing for Washington is that Andre Carter has rushed the passer better lately and he's facing backup Bob Whitfield. They need to get in Manning's face and batter him a little bit. And the secondary has to tackle better. That means you, Sean Taylor. No more of this weak open field garbage.
10. Will the Redskins win? It's hard to know what you'll get out of this group. I thought they would win last week, but then again I'm a fool. But I like the mindset that they have, especially on offense. They truly believe they're thiiiiis close to being a good offense. They should be one tonight. Defensively, I don't like the Redskins at all. But the offense should be enough to carry them in this one. Plus I look at New York and see a team that seems to have quit and has a coach who is about to be fired. Yes, they can make the playoffs but that seems almost secondary to everything else going on with them. Redskins 24, Giants 23.
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