The topsy-turvy NFC East is only going to get crazier as we speed toward the end of the season. Three teams could conceivably still win the division, and there will be plenty of intra-divisional play in the next two weeks as we see the cards fall into place. But not this week. In a series of inter-conference and inter-divisional outings, here is a look at two of the early games on today’s menu.
New York Giants at Atlanta Falcons
Today the Giants play the Falcons. It’s amazing how, in a couple of short weeks, the titan team out of Georgia is looking like an easy win against the 8-5 Giants. Yes, the Falcons are 11-2, but only after wrecking their perfect season in November with a loss to New Orleans – and their most recent embarrassment in Charlotte, NC. Eli Manning has hushed naysayers with two stellar performances in his three games since the much-needed bye week. Matt Ryan has been throwing a lot of interceptions lately, although he is still posting a 14 INT-to-24 TD ratio.
Giants lead rusher Ahmad Bradshaw is sidelined in this game, so starting in his place will be David Wilson. Ryan should be careful with the Giants’ secondary as well; strong safety Stevie Brown has 7 of the team’s 20 picks this season, and with 61 tackles, he has two forced fumbles to his credit in the last two games.
The Giants should beat the Falcons soundly in Atlanta today.
Washington Redskins at Cleveland Browns
On paper it looks like the Redskins should finish this game up inside three hours and be back on the plane by 5 today, heading back to Washington, DC.
That’s what it looks like on the surface, anyway. A deeper look at match-ups tells a different story.
Star rookie and team leader Robert Griffin III will not only be sidelined for this game, he won’t even dress for it. With an injured knee and playoff hopes still within grasp, this is probably a smart move. Let the kid rest his knee and bring him back against more important teams left to beat, like division rivals Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles. The Giants have their destiny in their own hands.
So who comes in for “Superman” behind center? Fellow rookie, Kirk Cousins. Will he be up to the task when so much pressure rides on this game? Consider this: Down by eight points against the Baltimore Ravens, Griffin goes out with a sprained knee and a minute and a half left to play. He’s driven it all the way down into the red zone, and Cousins comes in, cold off the bench. He tosses an 11-yarder to Pierre Garcon, picked up the two-point conversion with a quarterback sneak, then led the team downfield to a game winning filed goal.
Griffin has a QB rating of 104.2. Cousins, in 11 attempts this season, has a rating of 107. Of course the ‘Skins’ Number One rushing offense will be without Griffin’s average 57.5 ypg, and Cousins may have trouble finding Washington’s lead receiver, Garcon (in seven games he has almost as many yards receiving as either Santana Moss or Leaonard Hankerson). That’s because of CB Joe Haden.
In 8 games, Haden has 38 tackles, three INTs and a forced fumble under his belt. The Browns are coming into a home stadium with a three-game winning streak (same as the Redskins). Cleveland’s playing nothing but spoiler, and their rookie QB Brandon Weeden has a 13-game lead in experience over Cousins. Hate to say it, Hog Fans, but this little piggy’s gonna be crying all the way home. Browns fans will revel in a win, even if it’s for nothing.