I know I promised to change the tone of my emails after the great win Sunday against the Jags, but to be honest, it is very hard for me to muster positive sentiments when it comes to discussing a Redskins road trip to the Meadowlands. Myself, Ami, Elan, Yair, and Chaim can all attest to the very bitter taste left in our mouths after the Skins got throttled by the Giants at the Meadowlands last October (36-0). I won't get in to the gory details of the debacle, but let me remind you that since Gibbs' return to the Skins, they are 0-2 at the Giants, have been outscored 56-14, have committed 11 turnovers, and have been sacked 9 times in those two games. Please also don't forget that Brunell has started three times against the Giants during his Skins tenure, and two of those times he has come down with significant injuries (Hammy in 04, Knee in 05). We also can't forget about LaVar. I believe he will be useless and a non-factor in this game, but regardless of that, we do know is that he really hates the Skins, he will play harder then he ever has, and that he's going to want to hurt one of our beloved offensive superstars.
But perhaps 2006 will be different. For one thing, because of yom tov, none of us losers will actually witness this potential pummeling. But more likely, perhaps this year the Skins will be on the opposite side of the butt-whipping. Perhaps this year Lavar being in all the wrong spots will be a good thing. Perhaps this year it will be Eli's tusch, and not Brunell's, that will hit the deck every other play. And perhaps this year the Skins will be on the plus side of the turnover ratio. What I am saying my friends, is that maybe this year the Skins have a fighting chance of winning (How was that Noam L?).
Everyone involved in this one, especially Arrington, knows whats at stake Sunday. Both teams are 0-1 in the NFC East, both teams know they can gain a game on the Cowboys or Eagles, and both teams don't want to be under .500. Holding your home court is crucial for surviving in the division and stealing a game on the road can make a season and boost a team into the playoffs. The Giants are reeling - they are combating intra-team hostilities, players are bickering, and they are trying to figure out a way to stop teams from throwing the football on them. Everyone in NYC understands this game is make or break for them - they need a win in a huge way. The Skins, on the other hand, are going in the opposite direction: the offense is coming together, the players believe in each other and in their system, and even their beleaguered defense showed life last week (see, that's a positive spin). Both teams seasons can be turned upside down because of this game - that is why I think it will be played close and tight. A shootout is very possible because of weaknesses in both secondaries, but we can't forget that this is NFC East football - the team that grinds it out harder will probably win.
Keys to the Game
Shawn Springs - Is not playing again this week. The Skins secondary has been getting burned all year long, and there is no reason to assume it gets better this week. The Redskins have allowed 17 passes of 20 yards or more through four games, that is good enough for second-worst in the league - and don't forget the three drive-saving pass interference calls they get nailed for a game. The Skins will have to match up with Plaxico and Toomer on the outsides while keeping an eye on Shockey and Barber in the under stuff. The Skins are going to have to figure something out quickly - blitzing Byron Leftwich was effective last week, but on some blitzing plays the Skins got burned for big plays also. Eli Manning isn't the most accurate of QBs, so if the Skins corners can be near their opposing wideouts they will have a chance of picking the ball off. In terms of Springs, the outlook gets more bleak by the day. The Skins are now saying he is a few weeks away, but this quote is very telling (and scary): "I want to see the statistics of guys who had a sports hernia and came back the same season." Ohhhh boy.
Brandon Lloyd - Just like the Redskins secondary, the Giants back four have been abused so far by opposing NFL teams. Sam Madison (who is totally washed up) cannot take anyone man-to-man, and Cory Webster has been equally inadequate playing on the opposite side. Will Demps, who was supposed to be a huge upgrade at safety, is having trouble adjusting (hello Adam Archulleta) and Jibril Wilson has been their only strong point. As you recall last year, an equally miserable Giants secondary was able to shut down Santana Moss in their first match up. After Moss lit up the 49ers the week before, the Giants shaded over double teams to Moss' side, leaving him with 4 catches for 34 yards. The Giants were able to send double teams over to Moss because the Skins had no receiving threats on the other side of the field. Thankfully Brandon Lloyd is in Burgundy and Gold, so if the Giants try to go with the same shtick, Lloyd (and Randle El) will face a ton of single man coverage. Lloyd, who started the season slowly, got into the act last week with a 30+ yd catch that led to a CP touchdown. I am expecting big things from the Illinois alum.
Samuels/Jansen - Osi and Strahan have had NFL Total Access to Mark Brunell over the past two years, and Jansen and Samuels, who match up with them on the outsides, are fully responsible for the QBs pain. The two tackles have always struggled against the Giants (especially on the road) and are going to have and step it up for the Redskins to have a shot. Here's what the game will come down to: If Brunell has time in the pocket to step into his throws (and get mustard on them), then the Skins will win. If Brunell is on the run, stick a big old fork in us.
CP/Tiki (It Rhymes)- This is a pretty simple one. If the Skins can stop Tiki early on (which they weren't able to do last year) then this will force Manning to put up the ball and allow the Skins to blitz (hopefully a good thing). On the other side, if CP can get good bunches on first and second down, the Skins will have more manageable third down plays and will be able to control the clock. Portis and the Skins O-line ruled the trenches against a much better run defense last week, if they can do it again, it will alleviate a lot of pressure from Brunell. Just remember, in both games at the Meadowlands in the new Gibbs era, Portis has been shut out of the game early and the Skins were forced to throw the ball for 3.5 quarters. This can't happen again.
Montgomery/Golston - Man have these rooks been solid. The Skins haven't missed Salavea at all. The Skins run stopping unit held Fred Taylor to under 40 yards rushing and if they can do it again this week, the Skins will win again. Salavea has said this week that he feels better but is still uncertain if he will play Sunday. My thought is that he won't be in the starting lineup regardless of whether he is active or not.
Saunders - Just wanted to give a shout out to the man I have been hatin on for the past few weeks. The Skins offense was a well oiled machine last week, the proverbial 1976 Dodge Aspen. The motion worked, the running to the edges worked, the running up the gut worked, the short passing worked and the long passing work. The only thing that didn't work was the trickery - and I wouldn't expect to see that on the road anyway. Saunders usually doesn't recycle plays for more than four weeks in a row, so expect to see a whole new bag of goodies from the braniac in the box this week. Who's excited?
That's all I can think of. Besides Springs and Samoa Joe, there are no significant injuries to report.
Player to Watch: I have a feeling ole' Rock #30 is going to break another big one this week. He was only a couple of tackles away from doing it to the Jags.
No real good tidbits this week out of Ashburn, except this awesome quote from Springs yesterday which I saw in the post:
"Of course, Springs also had the line of the day. When he was asked if the Giants would have an advantage over the Redskins because Arrington is so familiar with the Redskins' defense, Springs replied, "'Well, I don't think LaVar knew all of our defense when he was here.'"
I hope you all have a great yom tov and keep doing what you did on Kol Nidre night - if we win this week, we likely head into a huge game versus Indy at 4-2.