By Paul Dottino
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The NFL got this one right.
There was much debate in the spring about which team should play where on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But there’s truly no better way than to have the Giants visiting the Redskins near the nation’s capital, bringing together the attention of the fan base from two of the regions that were struck.
Eli Manning, who didn’t turn enter the NFL until 2004, admitted this week it will be hard to predict the emotions in the stadium during the pre-game ceremonies or how long those feelings will linger after the kickoff.
Those who were at Giants Stadium for the Giants’ first home game following the attacks can understand what he might be imagining. The day started with the heavy duty security – powerful weaponry, military vehicles and dogs dotting the scene. The pre-game atmosphere was surreal – with the military flyover and Ray Charles and Tony Bennett singing in tribute to those lost in the tragedy and those who participated in the recovery effort.
Members of the NYC police and fire departments and the Port Authority stood on the Giants’ sideline for the national anthem and then left the field to Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” – and the Giants wore baseball caps representing each of the organizations.
Maybe the only things one might be able to remember about the game, itself, is that the Giants beat the Saints and that New Orleans had a late TD nullified by a penalty before CB Will Peterson broke up a last-second play in the end zone in a game the Giants seemed destined to win. Even I had to look up the final score: 21-13.
Nobody can guarantee which team will win Sunday, but it’s a certainty the folks at FedEx Field will remember the day.
And yes, they will play a football game, so here’s a quick glance at three matchups to watch:
1. Giants CB Aaron Ross vs. Redskins WR Santana Moss. Ross had a tremendous preseason, which grew in importance after starter Terrell Thomas went to IR with a torn ACL. Coach Tom Coughlin said he saw more focus from the oft-injured Ross from the minute he reported this season.
Yes, it is a contract year for him, but the prideful Ross also said he wants to live up to his billing as a former first-round pick. He’ll draw Moss, who may be the only player on the Redskins’ offense of making a big play downfield. At age 32, the crafty receiver still has enough quickness to beat you with a good move.
2. Giants LT Will Beatty vs. Redskins vs. ROLB Brian Orakpo. Beatty begins his first year as a starter and improved during the preseason and must take this upward climb into the real games. His initial test comes against a dangerous pass rusher in Orakpo, who has put up 11 and 8.5 sacks in his first two seasons, but has no sacks in four career games against the Giants.
3. Giants C David Baas vs. Redskins NT Barry Cofield. The Giants believe Baas, who signed from the 49ers during the off-season, is much closer to melting into this line than most people think. He’ll draw a tough assignment when the Redskins are in their 3-4 because Cofield is going to want to prove to the world that he deserved the big money he got when he left the Giants.
Bonus matchup: Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell vs. Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Sixth-round MLB Greg Jones has practiced with the Giants’ starters and it’s assumed he will get the call on Sunday, but the Giants are good at cloaking their plans.
How much will Jones play or will the Giants use a heavy substitution pattern and devise several odd-ball schemes? Will OLB Michael Boley take at least some of the responsibility of making the defensive calls? Regardless, Jones knows the Redskins will try to test him as much as possible.
NOTE: Justin Tuck is battling a stinger, which has significantly limited him in practice and he’s likely to be a game-time decision. Should he not be able to play, you could see extra snaps at defensive end for Dave Tollefson, Rocky Bernard (who took many practice snaps at end in camp) and/or Mathias Kiwanuka (which likely would necessitate Mark Herzlich taking some snaps at OLB or extra use of the sub package).
PREDICTION: Giants 23, Redskins 17
What’s your prediction for Giants-Redskins? Let Dottino know in the comments below…