By Paul Dottino
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One more game. One more time. One more opportunity for the approximately two dozen free agents on the Giants’ roster to put their work on tape.
There is little question that the Giants (6-9) will have to go through a very difficult self-evaluation process following Sunday’s home game against the Washington Redskins (3-12) to close out the season. It’s too early to tell how many changes or where they will come, but one inquiry already has been answered – this remains coach Tom Coughlin’s team.
His players responded to that question by extending their efforts into overtime while beating the playoff-hungry Detroit Lions, 23-20, on the road last weekend.
Indeed, it would be very surprising if the Giants don’t put out a strong effort in their season finale.
Here are three key matchups to watch for in the game:
1. Redskins RB Alfred Morris vs. Giants MLB Jon Beason. You can’t say enough about what Beason has brought to the defense this season – the Giants rank fifth in the NFL by allowing 3.8 yards per rush. They held Morris to 11 carries for a season-low 26 yards in their first meeting this season, amazing considering he’s run for 1,213 and averaged 4.7 yards per carry. Washington has been utilizing a more conventional attack since Kirk Cousins replaced a gimpy Robert Griffin III a few weeks ago, so it is likely to feed Morris early and often to test the Giants.
2. Giants RBs Andre Brown and Peyton Hillis vs. Redskins MLB London Fletcher. Brown and Hillis are pending free agents, attempting to improve their position either with the Giants or out in the marketplace. It’s possible the team will ask both of them to return, although Brown will be a bit more expensive and the Giants must decide how much the injury-plagued running back is worth. Despite two early 100-yard games, Brown has run for more than 40 yards only once (vs. San Diego) over his past four appearances. Hillis has done everything the coaching staff has asked and worries that this might be his last NFL game – given that he was a mid-season addition this year. Fletcher, a four-time Pro Bowl pick, will be looking to go out with a bang, ending a 16-year career that will be capped off with his 256th consecutive game.
3. Redskins OLB Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan vs. Giants LT William Beatty and RT Justin Pugh. Orakpo (10 sacks) and Kerrigan (8.5) are applying more pressure out of Washington’s 3-4 alignment than earlier in the season. Orakpo had two sacks against Beatty (unofficial 11 sacks) when the Giants prevailed, 24-17, in Week 12. The last thing the Giants need is to have a battered Eli Manning going into what will be a critical off-season for him as he attempts to rebound from a subpar campaign.
PREDICTION: Giants 31, Redskins 16
PREDICTION: record vs. the spread: 9-6
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