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NFL Preview - NY Giants (7-4) at Washington (5-6)
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - Forget the math, the only real thing standing between the New York Giants and an NFC East title is Robert Griffin III.
The 7-4 Giants lead the division by 1 1/2 games over Dallas and are two north of Washington but it's the Redskins and presumptive NFL Rookie of the Year RG3 who have a chance to put a scare in the reigning Super Bowl champions on Monday Night Football.
The two teams met earlier this season during Week 7 with the Big Blue winning 27-23 when Victor Cruz got behind the Washington defense for a game-winning 77-yard touchdown pass with just 1:13 remaining, the longest game-winning TD in the final two minutes of a game in New York's long and storied franchise history.
"It's a game we felt we should have won," Griffin said. "And we didn't win it, they got the win in their column and we got the loss."
The Redskins, however, have won two in a row -- both against NFC East opponents (Philadelphia and the Cowboys) -- with Griffin, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft, throwing eight touchdowns over that span, the only rookie in NFL history with four passing touchdowns in back-to-back games.
Overall Griffin has been unspeakably hot since coming back from the team's bye week, completing 34-of-43 passes (79.1 percent) for 511 yards with eight touchdowns and one interception for a 146.1 passer rating.
"When he came back from the bye week, he said, 'Hey, our backs are against the wall. We know what we've got to do and I'm going to play my best football,'" Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said when talking about Griffin. "That's what leaders do. That's what captains do."
Griffin, a Texas native, threw for 311 yards and the four touchdowns in his first Thanksgiving Day game, as Washington held off the Cowboys, 38-31.
"I couldn't have had a better homecoming, or as my dad would say, business trip," Griffin remarked of his first pro start in the Lone Star State, where he starred in both high school and college at Baylor.
Griffin had help in North Texas, however, as fellow rookie Alfred Morris carried the ball 24 times for 113 yards and a score as the Redskins snapped a three-game losing streak against the Cowboys.
The Giants, meanwhile, are coming off perhaps their most impressive overall performance of the season back on Nov. 25 when Eli Manning threw three touchdown passes and New York dominated the Green Bay Packers, 38-10, in a battle between the two most recent Super Bowl champions.
Manning, who some have speculated was dealing with a "dead arm", completed 16- of-30 passes for 249 yards and reached 200 TD passes in his career, passing Phil Simms for the most in franchise history.
"I never thought my arm was tired, never felt like it," Manning said. "After a week off, you come back to practice, it felt good, alive, balls coming out with a little extra pop on it."
Ahmad Bradshaw carried the ball 10 times for 58 yards and a score for the Giants, who also stunned the Packers in a NFC Divisional playoff contest last season at Lambeau Field. Bradshaw also caught two passes for 61 yards.
Andre Brown added 64 rushing yards and a touchdown on 13 carries for New York, which snapped a two-game skid. Rueben Randle, Hakeem Nicks and Cruz all caught TD passes.
The news was not all good for the Giants, however, as Brown suffered a broken fibula in the fourth quarter, ending his season. Brown had rushed for a pedestrian 385 yards, but led the NFC with eight rushing TDs.
Rookie first-round pick David Wilson should get a long look in Wilson's absence.
"It's his time," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said.
The Giants lead the all-time series with Washington 92-63-4 and have won 10 of the past 13. They did, however, lose 28-14 in at FedEx Field last season, halting a five-game win streak in Landover.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
RG3 has confounded NFL defenses with his rare combination of speed, athleticism and accuracy as a thrower. He's especially dangerous off the read- option when defenses have to respect the run, opening up the play action game behind the linebackers for the Redskins.
Washington is second in the NFL with 162.9 rushing yards per game thanks to Griffin and Morris. That kind of threat on the ground sucks the opposing defense to the point of attack, opening up the kind of intermediate routes that Griffin excels at.
Occasionally RG3 will come off his read, step back and hit the deep ball to Pierre Garcon or Santana Moss.
"The things they faced facing us the last time with the running game are still there but we've added elements in the passing game that make us more dangerous," Griffin said. "So they'll prepare for that and we'll see what happens."
Manning will be facing a Redskins defense which is allowing 301.4 passing yards per game, second-worst in the league. The two-time Super Bowl MVP has struggled against Washington recently, however, throwing just one touchdown versus eight interceptions over nearly five games before his bomb to Cruz settled things in the first matchup between the two clubs.
Dead arm or not the Giants' bye week seems to have revitalized Manning, a key since New York's running game is not consistent enough to carry the load most weeks.
"Washington is a great team and in this division, everybody plays each other tight, so we've got to go out there and prepare well and take advantage of the opportunities when they come," said Giants wide receiver Hakeen Nicks.
The Giants have a chance to put the dangerous Griffin and the 'Skins in the rearview mirror with a win on Monday night.
"I think the stadium will be rocking, it'll be a great atmosphere Monday night," Manning said. "And it's a huge game for us, a chance to build a little bit more lead in the division for us."
That said RG3 has been playing at a very high level and Washington comes in as the far more desperate team. For whatever reason New York has a recent history of playing its best only when its back is against the wall. That need to win isn't present this week so figure on RG3 and Co. gaining the split in the season series.
"There's definitely a sense of urgency when you know you cannot stumble," said Shanahan. "You've got to go out and win each week and it starts with the present game. That mindset has been there. There's a good sense of urgency that everybody's got to play their best game and that everybody's got to do what they're capable of doing."
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Redskins 23, Giants 20
12/03 08:56:32 ET