Only a handful of Sunday’s games carry major implications when it comes to the playoff picture. Giants-Redskins (4:25 p.m. ET, FOX) is one of them. New York doesn’t have anything to play for, besides trying to get the offense on track ahead of the postseason. The Redskins, on the other hand, have everything on the line. A loss would eliminate them from playoff contention, while a win would most likely get them in — barring a tie between the Packers and Lions.
Considering that fact, the Redskins will be fired up and motivated. The Giants likely won’t play their starters all game long, which is one of the many reasons Washington will net a much-needed victory over New York.
The Giants have nothing to play for
You probably know this already, but the Giants have absolutely nothing to play for. Nada. Zilch. They’re locked into the fifth seed in the NFC and Sunday’s outcome will have no bearing on their playoff positioning. The Giants have said they won’t rest their starters, which is good for the Lions and Packers, but it’s highly unlikely they keep Eli Manning, Odell Beckham Jr. and their other stars in the game for its entirety.
Instead, the Giants will probably play them for a half or less, just trying to get some sort of rhythm going before the playoffs begin. After all, New York’s offense has been atrocious all year – particularly when trying to run the ball.
On defense, the Giants can afford to rest starters. They’re playing lights out on that side, dominating teams in recent weeks. Starting and playing a guy like Janoris Jenkins, who’s battling a back injury, wouldn’t be ideal considering the way he’s played all year. He doesn’t need extra work, which will open up opportunities for Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, as well as Jamison Crowder.
Washington has too much firepower on offense
The Redskins have the third-ranked offense in the NFL, totaling 6,170 yards this season. A big reason for that is the number of weapons they have on that side of the ball. From Pierre Garcon to DeSean Jackson to Jordan Reed, the Redskins are loaded — more so than just about every team in the league. Add in the versatility of Jamison Crowder and Rob Kelley’s emergence at running back and Washington is well suited to take on a defense like New York’s.
They have playmakers with the ability to turn short throws into big plays. A slant to Jackson can go for 60 yards in the blink of an eye, while Crowder can make nickel backs look foolish in the slot. The Giants’ defense is outstanding, particularly up front, but Washington’s skill players might just be too much to handle – even for New York’s secondary.
The Redskins won’t have much trouble moving the ball, while the Giants will struggle offensively, as they have all season. They simply won’t have enough firepower to keep up with the high-octane Redskins.
USA TODAY SportsBrad Mills
Kirk Cousins will be motivated
Kirk Cousins came into 2016 motivated to prove he’s worthy of a long-term extension in Washington. Sunday will be his last audition for the so-called job, as he’ll look to cap off a stellar season with a win to get Washington into the playoffs. He’s played with a chip on his shoulder all year long, just as he did in 2015. He proved it when he shouted “How you like me now?!” at Redskins GM Scot McCloughan after beating the Packers.
Sunday’s game won’t be the biggest of Cousins’ career, but it’ll be up there — and he’s going to play like his job depends on it. He’ll do everything in his power to carry the Redskins to the playoffs, which will only happen if they beat the Giants. Cousins is going to sling the ball all over the field, which has been the game plan for the Redskins for much of the season.
The outcome of Sunday’s game won’t determine Cousins’ future in Washington, but you can bet he’ll play like it will. Expect 300 yards and a handful of touchdowns while throwing the ball 40-plus times.