With the NFC East lead within reach, the injury-decimated Giants will look to continue holding the fort when the unstable Redskins visit the New Meadowlands (Sunday, 1 p.m. FOX).
Injuries have fractured Big Blue’s offensive depth chart, but a safe game plan, filled with short patterns and strong running, rescued the Giants (7-4) from an upset against Jacksonville a week ago. Deploying a similar offensive strategy should be enough for the Giants to improve to 2-2 in the division.
With its season mathematically alive, Washington (5-6) is 2-1 in the NFC East and still factors into the wild-card race despite last week’s implosion against Minnesota. The always-dangerous Donovan McNabb will lead the Redskins’ 10th-ranked pass offense on a last-ditch effort this Sunday.
Safe and secure
Eli Manning played without his top two receivers Hakeem Nicks (leg) and Steve Smith (pec) last week, but still tossed two touchdowns in only his third turnover-free game of the season. By relying on tight end Kevin Boss and running back Ahmad Bradshaw (they combined for seven catches, 108 yards and a touchdown), Manning picked apart the Jaguars and let his targets make plays. With the hazardous DeAngelo Hall preying on quarterback’s mistakes along the sidelines — his six picks tie him for second in the NFL — Manning should rely on Bradshaw and Boss again to work against the interior of the Redskins’ 29th-ranked pass defense.
Starting at the end
Big Blue’s ferocious pass rush should look to add confusion to their arsenal of speed and power. By sliding pass-rushing ends Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora inside the defensive line, the G-men should be able to force overwhelming pressure in the heart of the Redskins offense and disrupt Donovan McNabb’s timing. Outside linebacker Michael Boley, or any blitzing defensive back, could contain the edges if McNabb is flushed out of the pocket.
Redskins rookie Brandon Banks is a potential game breaker for Washington when his returns aren’t called back by penalties. Although the Giants are strong in kick coverage, Banks is a 5-foot-7, 150-pound speedster who can be easily lost in congestion on special teams. Big Blue’s best strategy will be to force Washington into the errors that have negated Banks’ returns.
Down and distant
The Redskins’ league-worst third-down offense means Big Blue won’t face too much trouble in dictating the pace of the game. If Big Blue wins the field position battle, their second-ranked third-down defense, allowing only a 31.9 percent conversion rate, should dictate the pace of the game. By ending Washington’s drives quickly, the Giants’ third-ranked offense should dominate the clock with a successful combination of short passes and Brandon Jacobs’ bruising running style.