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Thursday, October 18, 2012
Next-Level Preview: Giants vs. Redskins

By Kimberly Meyer, Michael Bonzagni and Evan Kaplan | ESPN Stats & Info

The Giants return to MetLife Stadium on Sunday to face the Washington Redskins for the first time this season. The Redskins won both meetings between the teams in 2011.

New York is coming off a 26-3 win at San Francisco, where the Giants ran for 149 yards while holding the Niners to 80 yards, their fewest in 2012. The Giants' defense came alive, forcing three Alex Smith interceptions and sacking the 49ers quarterbacks six times, three of which came when they sent five or more pass rushers.

The defense will be tested again in Week 7 when it faces the explosive Robert Griffin III. Last week against the Vikings, Griffin had a career-high 138 yards rushing, with 76 of those yards coming on a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Here are some areas to watch for in Week 7:

The Giants' running game came alive in the last two weeks, gaining 392 yards on the ground, 34 more than they gained in the first four weeks of the season. Ahmad Bradshaw has 316 rush yards in the past two games, 129 yards more than the next-closest player in the league in Weeks 5 and 6 (Shonn Greene).

Bradshaw has been particularly effective rushing between the tackles over the last two weeks, with 205 yards, and both of his touchdowns coming on such rushes. The Giants will face a Redskins defense Sunday that has allowed the fourth-fewest yards before contact between the tackles (175) and the fifth-fewest yards per rush (3.57).

The Giants must stop Griffin, one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the league this year, if they want to contain the potent Redskins offense. Only 9.9 percent of Griffin's passes have fallen incomplete due to an over- or underthrown pass, which is the lowest off-target percentage in the NFL.

One way the Giants can limit Griffin's completions is to stop his short throws. Nearly 31 percent of Griffin's pass attempts have been thrown at or behind the line of scrimmage, the third-highest rate in the league. The Giants can limit Griffin's success on short throws with pressure and batted balls by their defensive linemen. The Giants have eight batted balls in 2012, tied for third-most in the league, and their 30 batted balls over the last two seasons rank second in the league to the Texans.

Containing Griffin's running ability will also be a key to stopping the Redskins. Griffin has not fared well on his league-leading 35 designed rushes, averaging only 3.8 yards per rush. However, five of Griffin's six touchdowns have come on designed runs. Griffin has been especially dangerous when he scrambles, running for a league-best 245 yards and averaging 12.3 yards per scramble.

The Redskins' pass defense has struggled, allowing the most yards through the air (2,046), the most passing first downs (97) and tying for the most touchdowns allowed (15). They have been particularly bad on throws more than 10 yards downfield, allowing a 98.8 Total QBR (second-worst in the league) and 13.1 yards per attempt (second-most in the league). The Redskins are also the only team in the NFL to have allowed more than 1,000 passing yards on such throws through the first six weeks.

Eli Manning has thrived on throws more than 10 yards downfield, boasting a 98.1 Total QBR with 929 yards passing (second-most) and 10 plays of at least 30 yards (tied for first). Manning should have no problem continuing his success against a depleted Redskins secondary.