An interesting and important factor in this game is the running game of both teams. As we all know, Giants have the worst running offense in the league and have had trouble stopping the run on defense. Redskins seem to have a similar character: though they are not as low in the standings in each of these categories, they also have not run the ball well nor stopped it particularly well. However in the past few weeks things have changed just a little bit for both teams. It's only been a few games on the offensive side of the ball for the Giants and Redskins, so it's not enough to elevate their league rankings. But the Giants, since they moved Petrus and Boothe into the starting lineup and slide Diehl out to guard have run the ball for 100 yards in both weeks. Jacobs looked determined, powerful and quicker last week, aided by the OL and by the improved play of Hynoski at FB. Similarly the Redskins have gotten some life in their running game from rookie Helu who looks like he has some speed and some power in his frame. On defense, Giants have not done much better: the Cowboys ran well against them, but they have had a few games this year where their run defense looked strong. A big factor for the Giants affecting their run defense seems to be the presence and health of Tuck in the lineup. Tollefson and Osi are just not good run defenders.
As the weather turns colder and with the goal of making the Giants pass rush more effective, the effectiveness of each team's running game will be a big factor. It's the old mantra for the Giants, but if Giants can stop the Redskins running game reasonably well, they will put more pressure on the Redskins mediocre passing game and will give a chance for their pass rush to get after Grossman.
Cowboys offense looked very good and their defense was effective enough last night against the Buccaneers. Giants and their fans are all pumped up with the win in week 14 against the Cowboys because it gives the Giants their playoff fate in their own hands. Makes it seem like the Giants have it locked up, because usually your first reaction is that only one team can have its playoff destiny in its hands. However, the Cowboys also control their own playoff chances without needing help from any other teams. If they win their last two games , next week against the Eagles and the following week against the Giants, they are in the playoffs. Of course this is because the last game of the year is between the two teams and if they are tied going into that game, the winner of that game takes it. The week 14 win was a big one for the Giants, because it meant the Giants did not need help from anyone else, but it still does not guarantee the Giants an easy path to the playoffs.
Eagles have, at least theoretically, something to play for, because is all 3 NFC East teams finish the season tied at 8-8, the Eagles will get in because of tie breakers. However, if Giants win tomorrow against the Redskins, giving them their eight win, since the Cowboys and Giants play each other, there is guaranteed to be at least one 9 win team. If that happens, Eagles will have less to play for and might not be as motivated against the Jets this week and the Cowboys next week. Obviously, we don't care what they do against the Jets this week, but a week 16 win against the Cowboys would help the Giants chances.
A constant whine of mine on this blog is to move Kiwanuka back to DE. I don't want to suggest that he is a terrible LB - he is a good athlete and has become a decent player at that position. There are still some things that he is limited at, specifically playing in space against very athletic TEs and in general, closing that middle zone in the passing game. But he is better against the run, and knows his assignments well. With Tuck hampered by injury, it still makes sense to me to slide him back to his natural position. But with other available options somewhat limited to the Giants because of injury to Herzlich and Paysinger, the Giants will surely use Kiwanuka as they have been - kind of a hybrid, starting at LB, but moving to the line of scrimmage occasionally.