Skins can ruin division rival’s playoff hopes in D.C.

By Connor Byrne  |   Wednesday, December 27, 2006  |  Comments( 4 )

Washington Redskins
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The 5-10 Washington Redskins will have an opportunity to ruin the holiday season for the division-rival New York Giants this weekend. The two maligned NFC East teams will face off in one of the NFL Network's Saturday night specials, a game that won't be seen throughout much of America because of the league's disputes with such cable companies as Time Warner and Comcast.

Even though many eyes won't view this contest, it doesn't take the high stakes away. The Redskins, one of a handful of teams eliminated from playoff contention in the awful NFC, have a chance to crush the Giants' playoff hopes. New York is in chaos entering this game, sitting a below-average 7-8 with key stars like Michael Strahan and Luke Petitgout shelved by various injuries.

There are quite a few solid story lines to accompany this matchup of conference disappointments. Giants running back Tiki Barber, for instance, could be playing his final game if his team loses. A win, however, would more than likely extend Big Blue's season into the playoffs, despite the fact that the team would be a mediocre 8-8. New York, as a matter of fact, enters this showdown having lost six of seven and riddled with injuries and strife across the city regarding this once-Super Bowl contender.

More important than anything in this game will be the performance of Giants third-year quarterback Eli Manning. If he ends up struggling, many of the G-men's fans will be calling for a new QB in the future. It won't happen, though, considering the team just used the No. 1 overall pick on him in the 2004 draft. Manning has been middle of the pack this year, which is why he's come under such fire. Normally, top draft choices are expected to be star-caliber players.

The last time the Redskins and Giants clashed, Manning completed 23 of 33 passes for 256 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. Since that early-October day, Manning hasn't been the same, tossing 14 touchdowns against 13 picks in the last 11 games.

Washington's best offensive hope in this season-ending matchup might be its passing game. First-year starter Jason Campbell, the 25th overall selection in the 2005 draft, is maturing into a solid on-field performer and leader, and he'll have the opportunity to face one of the NFL's lowest-ranked aerial defenses. Through the first six starts of his pro career, the 6-foot-4, 230-pounder has a solid TD-to-INT ratio of 8-5; he's also been sacked just six times, which is a testament to the Redskins' improved O-line and the ex-Auburn star's keen ability to elude the opposing pass rush.

As long as red-hot Redskins running back Ladell Betts (he has five straight 100-yard games) can keep the Giants' defense honest, Campbell will have the chance to end his season with a solid game, propelling both himself and his team into a positive off-season.

A 6-10 record isn't what Washington had in mind before the season began, but it might be a happy New Year if the Skins can trample on visiting New York's hopes in FedEx Field.

--Connor J. Byrne can be reached at

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