New York Giants
Inside Slant | Notes, Quotes | Strategy and Personnel |
At the end of last season, running back Rashad Jennings was one of a small handful of New York Giants to do something unusual.
For about two weeks while the postseason was unfolding, Jennings and a couple of teammates came to work at their regular reporting time, changed into team-issued workout gear, spent time watching film and lifting weights everything but take part in practices because the Giants, who finished the 2014 campaign 6-10, were out of the playoffs.
"I wanted my body to know what it felt like to be in that position," said Jennings, whose Giants team will continue its quest for a postseason berth this Sunday against the Washington Redskins Sunday.
Jennings, like a lot of his teammates, have never been in a position where a game past Thanksgiving actually means something.
Yet, that's where the Giants currently find themselves, in what head coach Tom Coughlin continues to present as a six-game season, with the next game on the schedule being the most important.
"We try to make everything absolutely clear, absolutely understandable, the circumstances, as we go along," Coughlin said. "The six-game season, one game at a time, this is the most important game of the year, right here in the division."
With the NFC East being up for grabs, the likely only way in for the Giants, who in addition to Washington have the Eagles in the regular-season finale, to see the postseason is to hang on to their lead, a lead that survived last week's bye.
To do that, Coughlin and the leaders on the team who have been in this spot before, have broken things down to one game at a time, urging his players and coaches to leave no stone unturned in their preparation each week and their play on the field.
"To be honest with you, it's an awful lot about fundamentals and about technique," Coughlin said. "Again, not having any kind of split-focus, but focusing on the most important thing, which is the next snap, the next play. Play your butt off and I'll let you know what the score is."
"Whether we win this one or don't, every game from now on is going to be important," added quarterback Eli Manning, who knows a thing or two about playing for keeps this late in the season.
"Yeah, it's a big game, an important one in the division and we got to play our best football at the end of the year. Get into November and December and you got to play solid football and that's what we got to do," he added.
Among those six games that start this weekend, there are no "gimmes," not even against a Washington team against whom the Giants have a five-game winning streak.
That won't be easy, Coughlin said, noting that quarterback Kirk Cousins is a much different player than he was in the Week 3 meeting earlier this year.
"I think he's much more confident," Coughlin said. "I think the rhythm with which he goes about his business, particularly in the play-action pass game, is outstanding."
That praise is well earned. In his last two games, Cousins is 42 of 55 for 531 yards, five touchdowns and one interception, and has simply done a much better job with not trying to force the ball into tight spots if he's under duress.
On the defensive side of the ball, Washington is one of two teams that has yet to allow a 300-yard passer this season.
"I think they do a good job against the pass. They do a good job getting a pass rush, you don't have a whole lot of time to hold the ball and they're not giving up a ton of huge pass plays," Manning said.
"Some teams are running the ball well against them. Hopefully we can have that mix and be able to run the ball, be successful at that.
"Whether we throw for 300 yards or not isn't going to make the difference, we have to be efficient in our pass game and our run game and scoring points when we get opportunities."
The game plan is set and the players are confident in what they'll be working with. The only question is whether they'll be able to handle the glare of the spotlight on a game to which everyone will be paying close attention.
"We got leadership in the key rooms that have been there on this team, so I think we're fine with that," Jennings said. "I think that just brings another type of energy to see what it tastes like so I think everyone's up for the challenge."
Their season and the jobs of a lot of people depend on that being the case.
SERIES HISTORY: 166th regular-season meeting. Giants lead series, 97-64-4. The Giants won the first meeting of this annual divisional series, 32-21 in Week 3 at MetLife Stadium, and have won the last five regular-season games against Washington. New York is 44-38-2 all-time in games played against Washington on the road.