The Giants need a home victory Sunday against the Redskins to maintain control of the NFC East. And they shouldn't expect help from the angry second-place Cowboys, who are not bound to lose against a hopeless Tampa Bay squad.
With Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora likely out again in the undermanned defense, the Giants (7-6) will have to play sound football all over the field to beat what has recently proven to be a gritty Redskins (4-9) team. Indeed, the Skins have turned gritty of late, including last week's close loss to New England.
Here are three keys the Giants will have to address to turn last week's singular victory in Dallas into the start a winning streak:
KEEP JPP GOING: Jason Pierre-Paul is going to be the next big thing on the Giants' defense, and they need to keep him going after his monster game (eight tackles, two sacks, a safety, a forced fumble and a blocked field goal). With Umenyiora and Tuck still out, the rotation is thin. But the Giants must find better ways to keep him fresh, perhaps spelling him with linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka. Either way, without him, the defense is totally lost.
STOP THE RUN: The Redskins had almost perfect balance between run and pass last week (33-34). Roy Helu, who had just one carry for two yards in the season-opening Redskins win over the Giants, comes into the Meadowlands with three straight 100-yard games and two touchdowns. If the league's 22nd-worst run defense can handle him, it will make harassing inconsistent Rex Grossman that much easier.
RING UP POINTS: Eli Manning is playing at his highest level right now, and he needs to keep that going, especially in the red zone. The Giants scored three touchdowns in five trips inside the 20 last week, but with the Redskins in spoiler mode, that might not be sufficient to avoid a Washington sweep. Touchdowns are the name of the game these days, andwith a leaky defense, Manning can ill-afford any mistakes that short-circuit potential scoring drives.