With the Giants locked into the fifth seed for the upcoming NFC Playoffs, Sunday’s game down in Washington against the 8-6-1 Redskins should have little meaning to Big Blue, who cannot better their lot with a win or worsen it with a loss.
The notion of resting key players has been bandied about in the media all week ever since the Giants “backed in” to the postseason last Sunday. Head coach Ben McAdoo told reporters this week that his team is heading to the nation’s capital this weekend with the intentions of winning the football game.
“We have 53 on the roster, we’re going to activate 46,” McAdoo said. “We’re going to play to win the ball game. That’s what we’re focused on.”
McAdoo apparently does not see the sense in pulling some of his stars for the sake of keeping them safe, citing that it was difficult to sit some starters and still field a team to play the ballgame. He also said QB Eli Manning was going to play but did not indicate whether or not it would be for the entire game.
“This is pro football. We get paid to coach and paid to play,” he said. “That’s what we do, it’s what we do for a living. Another game on the schedule, it’s a division game, it’s an important game.”
It is a very important game for the Redskins, who would lock up the final spot in the NFC with a victory. QB Kirk Cousins, who is second in the NFL in passing yards this season behind only Drew Brees, is prepping for the Giants’ first team defense.
“We’ve got to be ready for whoever we play,” said Cousins. “We’ve got to be ready for their best and their best is certainly guys like Janoris Jenkins. The last thing you want to do is be caught off guard and be expecting something else and then they’re playing their best players. We’ll prepare to face any and all players on their defensive roster and that way we’ll be ready for whatever they throw at us.”
Washington head coach Jay Gruden is also expecting the Giants to show up in full force, especially since the Skins won the first meeting earlier in the season.
“That is obviously up to Coach McAdoo, but we are preparing for a very good football team,” Gruden said on a conference call Wednesday when asked about the Giants’ intentions. “Whatever happens, they have a good team and the reason why they are where they are, already clinched a playoff spot, is because it is not just about the starters.”
Gruden is in his third season on the job in Washington, winning the NFC East last season after a dismal, 4-12 debut in 2014. He knows not to take any divisional game for granted.
“We are just going to play the Giants, man,” he said. “That is all that I know. We are going to strap it up and it is a very big game for us, obviously, and I think that anytime you play a professional football game it is going to be very competitive, especially when you are talking about Redskins and Giants, so it is going to be a competitive game, but I expect to see their team.”
Gruden is right. The NFL is unforgiving. You cannot play at less 100% or you run the risk of either getting people hurt, losing focus or both. The Giants’ defense needs to keep their momentum going and their offense needs more reps to straighten out their multitude of shortcomings.
The Redskins won the first meeting, 29-27, in Week Three at MetLife Stadium. Washington came into the game 0-2 and were on the verge of going 0-3 when Eli Manning threw a game-ending interception.
“Oh, it was huge,” Gruden said of that win. “To drop to 0-3 would have been tough. Anytime that you win on the road, a big game like that, division game, I think it just gives everyone a boost of confidence and just a little more bounce in their step when they come to work the next day. You know what losing does to a team and a franchise, it brings people down. But to get a big win like that on the road just justified what we were doing and got us going, jumpstarted our season.”
Had the Giants won that game, this week’s game might be meaningless for both teams. But listening to these two competitive coaches, every game in this league has meaning.