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Redskins vs Giants preview: 5 things to know as Washington goes all in for must win

Redskins vs Giants preview: 5 things to know as Washington goes all in for must win

The time for hyperbole has ended - this is an actual must-win game for the Redskins against the Giants.

If they win, they're very likely in the playoffs.

If they lose, questions will mount for players and coaches. The game is slotted for a 4:25 p.m. start at FedEx Field, but all the action starts on CSN at 3 p.m. with Redskins Kickoff. 

For New Year's Day, the weather looks quite mild, as temperatures will be hovering above freezing and little precipitation is expected. Here are five storylines to watch:

  1. Start fast - Plenty seemed different last week in the blowout win over the Bears, but the tone was set early. The Redskins scored first in that game for the first time in more than a month, and got out to an early 14-0 lead. If Jay Gruden's team can get out to another early lead against the Giants, the New York players might completely lose interest in a game that holds no value for them.
  2. Expect the best - Let's be honest here: The Giants are very likely to rest some of their best players. The risk of injury to a star like Odell Beckham or Eli Manning far outweighs the reward of winning what is a meaningless game for New York. As much as Ben McAdoo said his starters will play, they're probably not playing the whole game. They might not even play the whole first half, but for the Redskins, that's irrelevant. Washington needs to be laser focused, sharp in coverages and calls, and not leave anything to chance in a game that will determine their season. 
  3. Strength against Strength - Offense sets the tone for the Skins, while the Giants' defense has been their best unit all season. Washington offensive coordinator Sean McVay has repeatedly said that his team is at its best when the offense is balanced and the team runs the ball well. Against the Bears, McVay's unit rushed for more than 200 yards and piled up nearly 500 total yards. Facing the Giants, it will be much harder to run the ball, as New York ranks No. 7 in the NFL in rush defense. Still, McVay needs to stay committed on the ground. The best way to do that? Jay Gruden explained, "If you get down, then obviously it’s hard to be balanced. It’s important for us to be good in the down-and-distance, number one. Number two, convert third downs so we can maintain some drives to stay balanced. And obviously stay close."
  4. Turning it around - Washington's defense has struggled all season, that's no secret. Joe Barry's squad ranks near the bottom of the NFL in a number of defensive categories, including 29th in yards allowed per game. Luckily for Skins fans, the Giants also struggle offensively, 25th in the league in scoring and almost at the bottom in terms of time of possession. In spots, the Redskins have had success generating turnovers, like the five interceptions last week in the blowout over Chicago. Earlier this year, Quinton Dunbar and Su'a Cravens each had an interception of Manning as the Burgundy and Gold forced three turnovers in a Week 3 win in New York. Washington's defense might not get that many stops, but if they can grab extra possessions for their offense, that will provide major help.
  5. 'Playoffs start early' - A leader in the locker room, Pierre Garçon had a message this week, saying that "the playoffs start early for us." It's that simple for the Redskins. Gruden said all week that making the playoffs is his baseline for a successful season, and that cannot happen unless his team wins on Sunday. For all the progress Washington has made under the Gruden and Scot McCloughan regime, a loss in this meaningful of a game would be a tremendous setback. 

Numbers & Notes

  • Kirk Cousins is 370 yards away from 5,000 passing yards for the season. No Redskins QB has ever thrown for 5,000 yards. 
  • With just 170 passing yards, Kirk Cousins becomes the first quarterback in team history to average 300 passing yards per game in a season. The previous record was 269.1, set by Mark Rypien in 1989. Cousins is currently averaging 308 YPG.
  • Pierre Garçon needs one catch to extend his streak of consecutive regular season games played with a reception to 102, the fifth longest active streak in the NFL (Larry Fitzgerald, 194; Brandon Marshall, 159; Steve Smith Sr., 142; Michael Crabtree, 110).
  • Pierre Garcon needs 55 receiving yards for 1,000 on the season, his first 1,000 yard season since 2013.
  • Jamison Crowder enters the game as the NFL's leader with a 13.1 yard punt-return-average. He will attempt to become the first member of the Redskins to lead the NFL in punt return average since Brian Mitchell in 1994 (14.1).
  • With four catches, DeSean Jackson will record his 500th career reception, becoming the 16th active player in that club.
  • Needing just 29 yards for 1,000 yards this season, DeSean Jackson has gone over 100 yards receiving in three straight games and four of the Redskins last five games. 
  • One more touchdown of 60-yards or more will tie DeSean Jackson with the ultimate receiver royalty in Jerry Rice for TDs of 60+ yards. 
  • By starting Sunday, Brandon Scherff will join Chris Samuels (2000-01) and Jon Jansen (1999-2000) as the only Redskins offensive linemen to open their careers starting every game their first two seasons.
  • With one more interception, Josh Norman will tie his career high with four INTs. Norman had two picks last week in Chicago.
  •  Jordan Reed needs seven catches to become the 12th player with 250 receptions with the Redskins.

RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 1.0

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Roster competition, Brown vs. Pryor

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Roster competition, Brown vs. Pryor

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, June 23, 33 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskins  and NBC Sports Washington.

Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense—NFL coaches and others like to tell you that competition determines who wins roster spots in the league. And that may be true to an extent. But many roster spots are predetermined by a player’s contract situation and/or draft status. It is unlikely that an undrafted player like Fish Smithson will win a roster spot over Troy Apke even if the former outperforms the latter in every way during training camp. Apke was a fourth-round pick and they aren’t going to give up on him in favor of an undrafted player. It would cost $3.2 million in dead cap to cut Stacy McGee and only $150,000 to move on from Ziggy Hood so McGee will win a “competition” that is even remotely close. (Offensive projection here)

Redskins will 'have it out' for Terrelle Pryor at training camp—While this is something that could add a little spice to the Jets’ visit to Richmond, don’t look for much of anything to happen. Zach Brown might give a little extra shove to Pryor here and there but he’s not going to do anything that will draw blood or even cause a deep bruise. If nothing else, a big hit on Pryor would invite retaliation by the Jets on Josh Doctson or Paul Richardson. And that might lead to more retaliation and you end up with a brawl like the Redskins and Texans had a couple of years ago.

Trent Williams very much of approves of Smith and Guice—Williams is going into his ninth NFL season and he has yet to be on the winning side of a playoff game. He thinks that Alex Smith and Derrius Guice can help change that. 

The curious case of Alex Smith and the NFL Top 100 list—I normally greet this list with a big yawn and this year was no exception. But I do find the omission of Smith, who led the NFL in passer rating and was third in adjusted net yards per attempt, odd. In an update to this post, the NFL released the names of the top 10 players and Smith is not on it. He shouldn’t be, but he should be somewhere on the 100, perhaps in the middle of the pack. The only Redskins player to appear on the list was Trent Williams at No. 57.

The Redskins' best players who are 25 or younger—It’s likely that nine players who are 25 or younger will line up as starters for the Redskins this year. I don’t have a rundown of how that compares to the rest of the league but it’s notable that in the last two years six of them have replaced players who were either approaching age 30 or over it. I’ll engage in some speculation here and say that five of the young players—Daron Payne, Derrius Guice, Preston Smith, Jonathan Allen, and Montae Nicholson—are good enough to potentially make a Pro Bowl at some point in their careers. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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Timeline 

Former Redskins defensive tackle Dave Butz was born on this date in 1950. 

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 33
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 47
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 70

The Redskins last played a game 174 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 78 days. 

In case you missed it

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Redskins schedule preview: Week 16 vs. Titans

Redskins schedule preview: Week 16 vs. Titans

We’re previewing every game of the 2018 season with a look forward and a look back. Up today, it’s the game against the Titans. 

Week 16 December 22 or 23, Nissan Stadium (the date of the game will be determined no later than Week 8 in early November)

2017 Titans: 9-7, Second in AFC South, lost in the divisional round 

Projected 2018 wins per Westgate SuperBook: 8

Early line: Redskins +5.5

Key additions: CB Malcolm Butler, DT Bennie Logan, RB Dion Lewis

Key losses: DT Sylvester Williams, RB DeMarco Murray

Biggest questions: 

  • QB Marcus Mariota improved from his rookie year and had a solid 2016. But he regressed last season. In which direction is his career headed?
  • After head coach Mike Mularkey took the Titans to the second round of the playoffs he was summarily fired. Will they regret making to switch to Mike Vrabel?

Series history

The all-time series between the two teams is tied a 6-6; the teams split six games when the franchise was the Houston Oilers and they have gong 3-3 since the move to Tennessee. 

Series notables

The first time: October 10, 1971, RFK Stadium—The Redskins offense didn’t score a touchdown but that often didn’t matter when George Allen was the head coach as they still won 22-13. Washington’s scoring came on five Curt Knight field goals and on an 18-yard interception return by defensive end Ron McDole. That touchdown came on one of five takeaways by the Redskins defense. 

The last time: October 19, 2014, FedEx Field—Quarterback Kirk Cousins was struggling in the first half, losing a fumble and throwing a head-scratching interception. With the Redskins trailing the 2-4 Titans 10-6, Jay Gruden decided it was time for a change and Colt McCoy came in to play QB in the second half. 

Things clicked immediately as McCoy threw a short pass to Pierre Garçon, who turned upfield and rolled in for a 70-yard touchdown. It was back and forth in the second half and the Redskins were trailing 17-16 when they got the ball on their own 20 with 3:14 to play. McCoy led a 10-play drive that consumed all of the remaining time and culminated in a 22-yard Kai Forbath field goal to win it 19-17. 

The best time: November 3, 1991, RFK Stadium—To win nine straight NFL games to start out a season, you need solid blocking, accurate passing, hard-hitting tackling, inspired play calling, crisp execution and, as was the case today, a little bit of luck. Chip Lohmiller kicked a 41-yard field goal for Washington to give the Redskins a 16-13 overtime win over Houston. Darrell Green’s interception at the Houston 33 set up the kick. All of that, however, would not have happened if not for Oiler placekicker Ian Howfield. 

After Houston tied the game on a one-yard run by Lorenzo White with 1:42 left in the game, Brian Mitchell fumbled the ensuing kickoff, giving the Oilers prime field position. Howfield came in for a 33-yard field goal attempt with one second left. It appeared that the winning streak would end at eight. “You don’t exactly give up, but you’re not far from it,” said Andre Collins. 

The snap was perfect as was the hold, but Howfield’s kick was wide right. 

On Houston’s second offensive play of overtime, Oiler quarterback Warren Moon got bumped as he threw an out pass and Green picked it off. Three Ernest Byner runs preceded Lohmiller’s game-ending kick. 

The worst time: October 30, 1988, Astrodome—Washington entered the contest riding a three-game winning streak and appeared to be rounding into form to defend their Super Bowl title. Warren Moon threw three touchdown passes to Drew Hill, however, and the Redskins took a 41-17 whipping that wasn’t even as close as the final score would indicate.

Redskins schedule series

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS  and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS  and on Instagram @RichTandler