Well, this is it. It’s the last game of the year for the New York Giants (6-9) and after a year of debilitating injuries, sloppy play, countless turnovers and general underachievement, the 2013 season will mercifully come to an end when the team takes on the even-more underperforming Washington Redskins (3-12) on Sunday afternoon.
Both teams have been major disappointments in the NFC East, while the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles have played just well enough to vie for the division crown tomorrow night.
So, with not much at stake in this game, this could get real ugly, real fast. So here are five things to watch for in the last game of the season.
Is this the farewell for Justin Tuck?
When you think of heart, no one personifies it more than Justin Tuck for the Giants. Tuck has been the unquestioned leader for the Giants on defense for the better part of a decade and if this is indeed his last game in blue, then we should be forever grateful.
Obviously, Tuck is not the player he once was (although he is closing out the season in style) and depending on how things shake out in the offseason, Tuck may be a cap casualty out of necessity, as his contract expires at the end of the season.
It should be great to see the reception he receives, as the tears might flow as the Giants might say goodbye to one of their legends.
Can Eli Manning limit the turnovers?
Like a broken record, I’ve been asking this practically every week and more times than not, the answer to the above question is a resounding no.
If Manning can play like he did in Washington in Week 13 when he completed 22 of 28 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown (and a pick, of course), then the Giants will be in a good position to win.
Of course, without Victor Cruz again, Manning will have to key in on other targets and the emergence of Jerrel Jernigan should be something that bears monitoring, as the struggles of Rueben Randle and Hakeem Nicks (which I will assess later) have been well documented.
Which Kirk Cousins will show up for Washington?
After the Redskins switched to Kirk Cousins at quarterback, while sitting the struggling Robert Griffin III, Cousins has had one great game and one so-so game.
In his game at Atlanta (a 27-26 loss), Cousins threw for 381 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions. However, last week in a good matchup against Dallas’ terrible defense, Cousins only passed for 197 yards and one touchdown while throwing a pick.
With Cousins trying to play himself into starting gig next year (with Washington or elsewhere), Cousins will be amped to perform well against the Giants. The good thing for the Giants, though, is that they have done pretty well defending the pass of late. They limited Russell Wilson and Matt Stafford to a combined 428 passing yards with one touchdown and three interceptions in their last two games.
How will Andre Brown fare in light of his recent concussion?
All signs point to Brown playing in Sunday’s finale and, if healthy, Brown should once again be expected to carry the load, as he is the Giants sparkplug on offense.
Although he didn’t have an efficient performance in Washington in Week 13 (14 carries for 35 yards), Brown did punch it in for two scores. For a team in the Redskins that has allowed a league-high 22 scores on the ground, expect the Giants to feed Brown the ball a lot in the red zone.
Is this also the last game for Hakeem Nicks?
While he likely won’t be remembered the way Tuck will, you still can’t argue how valuable Nicks has been to this franchise prior to this year. How can you forget his playoff stretch in 2011?
Yes, this has been a brutal year for Nicks, who has yet to score a touchdown this season, but when in rhythm with Manning he can do great things. So, while Nicks has been vague on whether or not he wants to remain a Giant, he should be applauded for being a big part of the Giants’ last Super Bowl run.
It would be nice for him to finally find the end zone in perhaps his final game as a Giant.