Saturday, October 29, 2005

Giants Set For First Place Battle Against Redskins

The Giants (4-2) look to continue the momentum of a thrilling 24-23 comeback home win over Denver last Sunday. Trailing 23-10, they rallied for two touchdowns late to give ailing owner Wellington Mara one more sweet memory before he passed away a couple of days later at the age of 89. In a storybook ending, Eli Manning found Amani Toomer for a two-yard score giving Big Blue an improbable victory that sent joy throughout the sidelines, including an emotional Michael Strahan jumping up and down like a little kid.

"That is the only thing that I thought about Sunday night," said an emotional Coach Tom Coughlin. "Because I told the players and I told the coaches, it wasn’t about us, it was about him."

A week later, having buried their long-time owner Friday, the Giants try to improve to 5-0 against the Redskins (4-2) at Giants Stadium in an NFC East first place battle. So far this season, the Giants have outscored opponents 137-76 at The Meadowlands- including a blowout triumph over the Saints in what was supposed to be a road game.

Now, the task becomes tougher. Having dropped two in a row, Washington got a much needed 52-17 rout over San Francisco in Week Seven. They led 35-7 at halftime, scoring on seven of their first nine possessions enroute to an easy victory.

With vet quarterback Mark Brunell (1492 yards, 12 TDs, 2 picks) and deep threat Santana Moss (38 receptions, 743 yards, 5 TDs) clicking on all cylinders in the Skins' offense, the Giants defense will have a tough test ahead Sunday. Toss in back Clinton Portis (544 rushing yards, 3 TDs) and the NFL's 31st ranked total defense should have its hands full.

Big Blue will need big games from Strahan (5.5 sacks), Osi Umenyiora (3 sacks), ex-Skin Antonio Pierce (50 tackles, Int), Will Allen (31 tackles) and Curtis DeLoatch (27 tackles, Int).

Led by Manning (1414 yards, 12 TDs, 4 Ints) and prime target Plaxico Burress (36 catches, 535 yards, 5 TDs), the Giants offense will try to move the ball against the league's fourth ranked D in total yards (266.0 allowed-per-game). Washington could see a dose of Tiki Barber (483 rushing yards, 5 TDs-1 receiving). They are 15th in the league against the run allowing 108.5 yards-a-game.

The Giants offensive line must beware of Cornelius Griffin (3 sacks), Lemar Marshall (2 sacks, 36 tackles, Int) and Marcus Washington (41 tackles, sack). In the secondary, Sean Taylor (22 tackles, Int) plays very aggressively but is a threat.

This game promises to have intensity and tons of emotion because for the first time in a while, both these teams have something to play for. The Eagles (4-2) travel to Denver (5-2), which means the winner at Giants Stadium could be in sole possession of first by the end of the day.

"The type of football the Giants are playing is a reflection of Wellington Mara," said former Giant, now CBS analyst Phil Simms. "I know Mara was proud of his current coach, because Tom Coughlin exemplifies everything he believes in, both in life and in football."

The Giants should be playing with pride to honor their deceased owner. Expect them to be ready in front of a fired up crowd. It should be a hotly contested game decided by seven points-or-less.

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