The Redskins.com crew breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Sunday's Redskins-Giants 2016 Week 17 showdown at FedExField in Landover, Md.
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PREPARE FOR EVERY GIANT
Inside the NFC playoff picture, there are only two spots locked: Dallas will be the No. 1 seed and the New York Giants will be the No. 5 seed. The only thing the Giants have to play for is momentum after a poor showing at Philadelphia in a 24-19 loss to the reeling Eagles.
When asked if his starters will play the entire game, Giants head coach Ben McAdoo said Wednesday that his starters will, "play the game." What that exactly means remains to be seen, but it seems almost certain that New York's normal starters will begin the game. How the game unfolds will likely dictate how long the Giants stick with their most important players.
According to the Redskins, this hasn't affected their preparation for the Giants.
"No, it doesn't matter – not one iota," head coach Jay Gruden said. "We have to get ready to play a very good Giant team. Whether their starters play or not is insignificant. I know that they have a very good football team and that's the important thing. Once they get off the plane and they get out here Sunday afternoon, they're going to play to win. That's the only way to play football. And I know Coach McAdoo will have them ready to play, and we have to be ready also."
Each NFL team has 53 players on the active roster, but only 46 can be activated for Sunday's game. The players will more or less be the same, but the snap counts for certain players could change. By simple math, as linebacker Ryan Kerrigan pointed out, only a certain number of players can rest.
"It's all the same, I mean you can't prepare hoping or thinking a backup player's going to play because one, a backup player is still a pro football player," Kerrigan said. "It's not like he's a slouch. It will be a tough challenge for us regardless of who's playing and it's merely by a mathematical thing, they can't just rest all their starters. They can only rest seven guys. It's not like they can rest all their starters anyway."
Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul has already been ruled out for Sunday's game, but another important defensive player for the Giants – No. 1 cornerback, Janoris Jenkins – has been limited in practice after not playing against Philadelphia. Pierre-Paul, Jenkins and potentially other important players taking a seat would certainly be an advantage for Washington, but relaxing at all could mean the difference between going to the playoffs or going home.
"I don't care," cornerback Josh Norman said. "Bring them on. Bring everybody who plays, who doesn't play, I don't know what coach [Ben] McAdoo is going to do, but that doesn't affect what we do. At the end of the day, we've got to strap up and we've got to put our best foot forward and go out there and get a win. Impose our will on the opponent that we play. And that's what we have to do, regardless of what happens, who plays, who doesn't."
HIT NO. 11 DEEP
With his contract year hitting the final stages, Redskins wide receiver Jamison Crowder has been at his best this season. In fact, since turning 30 years old earlier this month, the nine-year veteran has collected 386 yards on 16 receptions (24 yards per catch) along with a touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles.
After a 59-yard reception highlighted his efforts against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 13, Jackson has three straight 100-yard games for the first time in his career, too.
Jackson's speed has been just too much for tired defenses.
"I don't think he can. I don't think he will," Gruden said of Jackson's quicks. "He's not slowed down at all. Sometimes when he's jogging it looks like he's running 100 miles an hour. He's got great speed, obviously he's got great quickness and still has unbelievable hands. And that's what you take for granted. You think of him just as speed guy but some of the catches he made against Carolina, you saw the great hands and the great ball control and body control that he has. Exceptional player."
This week, Jackson will face a Giants defense he scored his first touchdown of the season again in Week 3. Even if Jenkins plays, Jackson believes New York's secondary is still talented enough to create some issues for Washington's offense.
"They paid a lot of money to have those guys over there doing what they're doing," Jackson said. "We like the opportunity, we like the challenge that is set in front of ourselves. It's a big game. The whole [of] Washington…the whole [area] will be ready for this one. All the fans, wherever, worldwide. It's going to be a big game. It's a rival game too, so there's a lot at stake."
FORCE THEIR HAND
It's no secret that for the Redskins winning has been dependent on their ability to create turnovers.
The Redskins have a plus-10 difference in turnover margin in their eight victories. But in their six losses, opponents have eight more takeaways than the Redskins have.
To defeat the New York Giants for a second time this season with a potential playoff berth at stake, the Redskins must use the same formula they did in September: create turnovers.
In their Week 3 victory over their NFC East foe, the Redskins forced three turnovers en route to their first win of the season.
Washington intercepted Giants' quarterback Eli Manning twice, including a game-sealing interception by rookie Su'a Cravens with a little more than a minute left.
"I think turnovers played a big part and we had the two key interceptions, I remember," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said. "We had a forced fumble at the end of the half there."
With the Giants in the red zone down just two early in the fourth quarter, cornerback Quinton Dunbar made a spectacular one-handed interception in the end zone, preserving the Redskins' slim lead.
Manning is tied for the third-most interceptions in the NFL with 16, so the Redskins should definitely have their opportunities come Sunday.
"It's just rush and coverage working together," linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said on creating turnovers. "It's us putting pressure on Manning up front and guys in the back end playing good coverage and sticking to their guys and ultimately hopefully that will result in some turnovers."
With the Giants locked in at the No. 5 seed, it remains to be seen how long their starters will stay in the game. Regardless, the Redskins are in a must-win situation against a divisional foe, and know it will be a close game.
"When you play a team like the New York Giants, or anybody for that matter in the NFL, it's going to be a four-quarter game," Gruden said. "It's going to be a dogfight and we have to stay with the plan and do the best we can and just stay focused and hustle and pursuit and do all the good things we're supposed to do and be fundamentally sound."
MAKE SURE A BALANCED ATTACK REMAINS
With one game left in the 2016 regular season and everything on the line Sunday, the Redskins will be looking to improve in the areas they have struggled to find consistent success in this year.
On a few instances, the team has struggled to get the running game going on a weekly basis and often stalled in the red zone. In the first battle with the Giants in September, the Redskins relied on Dustin Hopkins' five field goals makes, including one of 49 yards, as a major factor in leaving New York with a comeback victory.
Some of those areas have seen improvement, though, especially in last week's win over the Bears. One of the most important is the running game.
The Redskins ran for 208 yards and four touchdowns against the Bears with both Rob Kelley and Mack Brown going for more than 75 yards.
In September's win over the Giants, the team only managed 90 net rushing yards as a whole. This time around, the offense will look for a much similar performance to the one they put up most recently. Giving the running game the chance to develop, especially in the red zone, could end up being a key part of how the Redskins could pull off a victory at FedExField.
"I think we have to give it a chance. And we gave it a chance and the running game was very good down there," Gruden said. "It's good to see. It's very, very important. There's so many different coverages and so many different things defenses do to the passing game that sometimes you run the ball it's the safest and most productive answer. But we have to be effective at it and keep working at it."
After managing just 29 yards on the ground in the game against Carolina prior to the win last week, the ground game's success all over the field is a sign of things moving in a positive direction. will most likely only be increased in the game to come.
"Every time we run the ball well, our chances of winning go up," Kelley said. "I think we're getting into a rhythm. It felt good to get the running game going last game. Kirk [Cousins] was able to produce in the run game too."
The four touchdowns against the Bears did come from players who aren't typically associated with putting up six points, including Cousins and Brown, who saw his first offensive touches of the season with the blowout affair almost to completion.
Reproducing any type of scoring on the ground against the Giants will be no easy task. The defense is seventh in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game, giving up an average of 91.9 this year.
But with the diversity of threats that Kelley, Chris Thompson and Brown give the Redskins on the ground -- and the team's potential to build off its recent success -- finding the end zone and having success running the ball, despite the tough defense, will give the Redskins exactly what they need to keep their season alive.
"We have got to have great attention to detail, as always. We have to prepare – it's the biggest game of the season, obviously, and we have got to play our best football," Gruden said. "It's Week 17, we should be mentally sound. We should be physically in good shape and ready to roll. We have got a lot to play for, so it should be exciting for them."