Who has the edge in Thursday night's matchup between the New York Giants and Washington Redskins? Don Banks makes his pick below.
• Last week: 10-6; Season: 30-18 (.625).
• Best pick in Week 3: Seattle 31, Denver 23 (actual score Seahawks 26-20, OT).
• Worst pick in Week 3: Miami 27, Kansas City 17 (actual score Chiefs 34-15).
With an injury list that reads more like its roster, this might be the worst possible time for Washington to be facing a second game in a five-day span. Washington’s 37-34 brawl-marred loss at Philadelphia on Sunday was costly on many fronts, and the season-ending Achilles’ injury suffered by cornerback DeAngelo Hall leads in that department. And yet Jay Gruden’s offense really showed me something in nearly matching the potent Eagles score for score, with quarterback Kirk Cousins at times looking unstoppable in making his first 2014 start in place of the injured Robert Griffin III. If Cousins keeps this up -- 677 yards passing, five touchdowns and one interception in a little less than two full games -- there won’t be much of a quarterback controversy in D.C. He’ll be the guy, and Mike Shanahan will deserve a tip of the cap in hindsight for making that so-called wasted fourth-round pick in 2012.
The Giants come in feeling good about themselves after finally putting some quality football together for the last three quarters of their 30-17 conquest of visiting Houston, showing off the potential of Ben McAdoo’s offense with 176 yards rushing on a hefty 34 carries by Rashad Jennings, and a crisp 75 percent completion rate by Eli Manning (21-of-28, for 234 yards and two touchdowns). That’s the way it’s supposed to work in New York this year, with the balanced Giants grinding out 14 first downs on the ground against the Texans, and 10 through the air.
Washington has been very tough to run on, so this game will require more from Manning and his receivers. If the Giants protect Manning, he’ll make some plays against a Washington secondary that is the weak link of Jim Haslett’s defense. The Washington pass rush that dumped Jacksonville’s Chad Henne 10 times in Week 2 has yet to record another sack in the ensuing two weeks. If Manning can be harried and hurried, a mistake or two by New York could be the difference in the game.
Both NFC East clubs have rough schedules just ahead, so getting to 2-2 as September ends would be significantly better than digging out of a 1-3 hole. Washington faces Seattle on the Week 5 Monday nighter and then travels to Arizona in Week 6, while the Giants entertain dangerous Atlanta in Week 5, before taking off for a two-week in-division road trip to Philadelphia and Dallas. That means tonight’s loser is already facing a desperate situation in the season’s first half.