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Giants vs. Redskins: Five things to watch for

With the loss to the Dallas Cowboys (and their subsequent victory on Thursday against the Raiders) last week, all but deflating the Giants’ playoff hopes and crushing the fan base in the process, it may be hard for the team to regroup and keep playing with an edge.

However, as they say, the show must go on. And if the Giants are still thirsty for a win, they might get it this week against a banged up and beaten-down Redskins squad.

At 3-8, the Redskins are the team residing in the basement of the NFC East, and if the Giants want to keep it that way, they are going to have to put the Dallas loss behind them and refocus.

Here then, are five things to watch for in the game on Sunday night.

Can the Giants allow Robert Griffin III to continue his sophomore slump?

RGIII has been miserable all year and it hit a low point on Monday night against the 49ers, when he had his worst performance of the season (16-26 for 118 yards with no touchdowns and an interception).

Griffin III is simply not the explosive, multi-purpose quarterback he was last year and some are arguing whether or not he should be even playing, let alone starting over backup Kirk Cousins. Simply put, if Griffin plays like he has in the last few weeks, the Giants should win this game.

The Giants have done a good job containing quarterbacks of late, save for the final drive against the Cowboys last week, and it doesn’t seem Griffin III is ready to bust out of his slump.

Will Eli Manning regroup and take advantage of a weak Redskins’ secondary?

Manning has had the chance to rack up some monster numbers against some porous pass defenses in the last couple of weeks in the Eagles (twice), Cowboys, Vikings, Raiders and the Packers and he simply has not come through. Granted, he did lead them to victory a few times against those opponents, but not because he was the driving force.

Once again, Manning and the Giants have a matchup they can exploit, as the Redskins are another terrible pass-defense team. The Redskins allow 271 passing yards per game (27th in the NFL) while giving up 22 scores through the air (tied for 25th in the league).

While, of course, the Giants should lean on their running game, it still would be nice if Manning can bust loose for a big game.

What’s up with Hakeem Nicks?

After sitting out the Cowboys game with an abdominal injury, Nicks appears ready to play this Sunday night. Nicks said that he thought he could play in the Cowboys game, but Tom Coughlin said he did not see enough of him in practice to warrant him playing.

This set off a set of rumors about Nicks’ willingness to play and his attitude in the locker room. Obviously, it has not been a banner year for Nicks, who has struggled to get on the same page as Manning. Nicks still has not scored a touchdown this year and has only topped 100 yards receiving twice.

If Nicks wants to finish his season in style and set himself up for a nice new contract, it’s important he steps up. He has a good chance in front of him this week.

Will the absence of Jason Pierre-Paul be too costly?

Jason Pierre-Paul’s up and down, injury-riddled season continues, as he has been ruled out for Sunday’s game with his shoulder injury. This will be the first game he will have missed this season.

The Giants have been playing well on defense despite Pierre-Paul’s troubles and his absence should not be too overwhelming. After all, Pierre-Paul has only two sacks on the year to go with just 20 tackles.

At this point, it’s all about rest and recuperation for Pierre-Paul as he gears up for a rebound 2014 season.

Will the Giants running game continue to carry the team?

If the Giants want to get back on the winning track, they will once again lean on the running game to lead the way.

It may be all on Andre Brown this week as Brandon Jacobs has been ruled out (knee).

Brown has been outstanding ever since coming off the IR, rushing for 308 yards and one touchdown in three games. The Redskins can be carved up on the ground, too, as they allow 115 rushing yards per game while also giving up the most rushing touchdowns (15) in the league (tied with Tennessee and Jacksonville).

So, in all likelihood, expect the Giants to lean on Brown for most of the game while mixing in some play-action-passes.

Dan Stack | Featured Columnist