By Paul Dottino
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“It’s getting late early.”
With a tip of the cap to late baseball legend Yogi Berra, the Giants have already dug themselves a nasty hole. But they are in position to scratch their way toward the surface, thanks to the rest of the mediocre NFC East.
There’s no sense in boring you describing the rocky road that Dallas and Philadelphia are headed down. Regardless of what those teams do, the Giants absolutely have to take care of business against Washington, the remaining team in the division and perhaps the only one of the four that feels better about itself than it did before opening day.
A loss to the Redskins would leave the Giants at 0-2 in the East and 0-3 in the NFC, likely dealing a knockout punch to key potential tiebreaker scenarios down the line.
It goes without saying that the most obvious battle on Thursday night will be the Redskins’ running game vs. the Giants’ rushing defense, so let’s get to three other key matchups to watch on Thursday night at MetLife Stadium:
1. Redskins LOLB Ryan Kerrigan vs. Giants RT Marshall Newhouse:
Kerrigan is the Redskins’ best pass rusher and he usually plays very well against the Giants. Newhouse has been adequate in pass protection, yet this is going to be a tough task. The Giants likely will ask TE Larry Donnell and RB Nikita Whitlock to help, at times.
On other instances, they will have to scheme themselves around Kerrigan’s prowess, perhaps using a screen pass or using his own leverage against him. And if the past two weeks are any indication, the Redskins will sometimes move Kerrigan along the line of scrimmage to force the line to make pre-snap adjustments.
2. Redskins TE Jordan Reed vs. Giants LB Devon Kennard:
The Redskins have made Reed a key ingredient of their passing game. He’s already been targeted 17 times with 13 catches for 145 yards an a TD over the first two weeks. Reed (6-foot-3) will line up almost anywhere in the hope of creating an athletic mismatch against a linebacker or a size advantage against a safety.
Teams have completed all five passes they’ve thrown at Giants FS Landon Collins to this point. Kennard would be well advised to prevent Reed from getting a clean release off the line; however, that’s much more difficult to do if the Giants plan to make him a significant part of their pressure package — unless the defensive coordinator decides to emphasize others on the blitz.
3. Redskins RCB Chris Culliver vs. Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr.:
Beckham had a field day in his only matchup against the Redskins last season, catching 12 passes on 15 targets for 143 yards and three TDs. In short, he made life more than miserable for Bashaud Breeland, who was flagged four times. Breeland is moving to slot corner for this one, which means he may see some of Rueben Randle — who says he expects some slot work this week — and ex-49er Culliver gets the pleasure of trying his luck with Beckham (7-146-1 vs. Falcons in Week 2).
And don’t forget that Washington defensive backs coach Perry Fewell was the Giants’ defensive coordinator from 2010-14, so he knows Beckham — and the rest of the Giants — as well as anybody.
PREDICTION: Redskins 23, Giants 17
PREDICTION vs. the spread: 0-2