The NFL had higher hopes for this week's New York Giants-Washington Redskins game when it scheduled it for the Week 13 Sunday night time slot. Hasn't worked out. The Giants limp in with a 4-7 record to take on the 3-8 Redskins, who come off a short week and a miserable beating at the hands of the 49ers. Here are a couple of things to watch for in tonight's 8:30 pm ET game at FedEx field in Landover, Md.
Andre Brown and more Andre Brown: A struggling Redskins run defense lost defensive end Stephen Bowen to injury this year and should have a hard time against the Giants' drastically improved run game. With Brandon Jacobs out due to a knee injury, the less fearsome Peyton Hillis will serve as Brown's backup, which makes the Giants less potent in short-yardage situations. But they still ought to be able to dictate the flow of the game on offense behind Brown. Expect the Giants to run to set up the pass and to lean hard on Brown on early downs.
Who covers whom? Wide receiver Pierre Garcon is the No. 1 threat in the Redskins' passing game, and he lit up the Giants for 106 yards and a touchdown on eight catches last year in a Week 13 game in Landover. After Garcon, the No. 2 target for quarterback Robert Griffin III is dynamic rookie tight end Jordan Reed, but he missed last week's game with a concussion and is questionable for this one. If Reed does play, the Giants will have to be creative in coverage against him and Garcon, since they're down to only four healthy cornerbacks, two of whom (Jayron Hosley and Charles James) have played minimally this season. The Giants fear the Redskins' rushing attack most of all, so the safeties are likely to be helping in run support. Guys like Prince Amukamara and Terrell Thomas will have to win their one-on-one battles in the secondary.
Is this the week for Eli Manning? This question shows up in W2W4 every week, it seems, as the Giants' quarterback is suffering through his worst season since his rookie season. The Giants threw for just 154 yards last week against the Cowboys' league-worst passing defense, but Washington's 271 passing yards allowed per game represent the sixth-highest total in the league, so this is another opportunity to get untracked. The likely return of wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, who was inactive last week after missing practice due to an abdominal injury, should help with Manning's opportunity.
Pressuring RG III: Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul will miss tonight's game with a shoulder injury, which weakens the Giants' pass rush. The 49ers showed on Monday that the way to disrupt Robert Griffin III and the Washington offense is to get into the backfield right away and keep Griffin surrounded so as to limit his options. Can an untested rookie defensive end such as Damontre Moore handle the complexities of stopping the read-option? Can veteran defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins function as an end if asked to do the same? The extent to which the Giants can replace Pierre-Paul on the side opposite Justin Tuck is something to watch in this game.