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Thursday, September 4, 2008
This city's ready for some football

By Dan Graziano
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

NEW YORK -- Sorry about the headline. I'm required to make at least two thinly veiled references to ESPN's "Monday Night Football" per week. I've just returned from dining at Carmine's, home of the $22.50 (lunch portion) Caesar salad.

I have company business to handle near Madison Square Garden, and then I'll head out to the stadium. Right now, there seems to be some extra energy in Midtown. In front of most hotels, the league has hung flags touting the NFL kickoff game between the Giants and Redskins. There are also banners that read, "The NFL is Now," which sounds sort of cool, but I'm not completely sure what it means.

By noon, most of the newspaper stands near Times Square were sold out. I'm not sure if that's because of the game or last night's speech by Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. The New York Post is going with a "Just Two It" headline across the back page. The New York Times went with the predictably reserved "New Looks On Opening Day" above Judy Battista's story about all the changes the Giants' defense has gone through.

"When the Giants begin the defense of their championship against the Washington Redskins on Thursday night at Giants Stadium, the supporting cast will be coming out of its chrysalis and into starring roles," writes Battista.

It's funny. Just the other day, I was wondering why no one uses the word "chrysalis" anymore when describing Justin Tuck and Jay Alford. And speaking of Alford, don't be surprised if he slides out and plays some defensive end against the Redskins. One of the reasons why the Giants' pass rush was so effective last season was because they could rotate so many bodies along the line. They've definitely lost a couple of key players, but there's no reason why they can't generate a pass rush.

If you watched the Redskins' offensive line late in the preseason, you know what I'm talking about. I think the Redskins will attempt to chip-block Tuck most of the evening. That makes it imperative for players such as Mathias Kiwanuka and Renaldo Wynn to take advantage of one-on-one matchups on the other side.

And even though linebacker Gerris Wilkinson needed an injury to finally claim a starting spot, look for him to be involved in Steve Spagnuolo's blitz packages. He's not as powerful as veteran Danny Clark, who's playing strongside linebacker, but has more athleticism.

I would expect for Jason Campbell to dink and dunk the Giants until they prove they can stop him. And wasn't it interesting to hear Clinton Portis say this week how happy he was that the Redskins now have audibles? That seems like a not-so-subtle jab at the way Joe Gibbs and Al Saunders ran the offense.