Last year’s December matchup between the New York Giants and Washington carried high stakes.
The Giants left with the victory. Washington inched closer to the No. 2 pick in the draft, which was used to take Chase Young.
Watching from afar, Young couldn’t avoid the spectacle.
“That’s the stuff I tried not to listen to,” he said with a laugh. “But they said it on the TV! Everybody sent me videos talking about the ‘Chase Young Bowl.’ Man.”
It’s too early to declare similar stakes around Sunday’s matchup. For one thing, the teams meet again in three weeks. And there’s the other team that plays at MetLife Stadium, the 0-5 Jets, who are arguably even worse than the 0-5 Giants.
But the biggest reason draft position isn’t being discussed is that Washington coach Ron Rivera continues to focus on his goal of winning the NFC East, which he pivoted to after a dreadful start by the division’s top teams, the Cowboys and Eagles.
“There’s an interesting stretch right now,” he said Thursday. “There are five games that are very impactful, and that we have an opportunity and a chance. We’re going to see what happens and we’re going to go for it. That’s all that’s happened right now is I’ve changed my approach to this.”
That change in approach will either be validated or soundly rejected against the woeful Giants.
Both teams spent the week talking up the other, noting the big plays and close calls the others have logged along the way.
For the Giants, near misses against the Cowboys and Bears, as well as an 8-pointn loss to the Rams, showed they have the talent to compete with winning teams.
In Washington, it’s been more about individual playmakers. Kendall Fuller and Terry McLaurin are having strong seasons, but too often their big plays have been followed by big mistakes elsewhere.
Rivera made a point of that in his Monday morning film review.
“We make a couple plays, but then we allow something to happen,” he said. “We can’t do that.”
Sunday will bring a fresh lineup for Washington, with the likely return of Brandon Scherff on the offensive line, and the likely NFL debut of Saahdiq Charles at left guard (he was a tackle in college).
“Saahdiq is looking real good,” Young said, noting that Charles has strong hands. “He’s real comfortable at guard, so I expect real good things from Saahdiq.”
At safety, last week brought a change, as Deshazor Everett replaced Troy Apke for a portion of the game before returning to the bench.
“I thought Shaze gave us a little bit more juice, so I’d like to continue to get him involved,” defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said. “That’s kind of where we are at that.”
The NFL is always a week-to-week emotional roller coaster, but the stakes feel heightened for Washington on Sunday.
A win, and they can plausibly continue down the path of contention in the NFC East. A loss, and it’s time to start scouting prospects for next year’s draft.
“Obviously we haven’t been putting the best product on the field these last couple games, and we’ve owned that as players and coaches, but we know what’s at stake,” offensive lineman Morgan Moses said. “Having the conference the way it is right now, then having Dallas lose their starting QB, and a lot of injuries throughout our conference, the conference is up for grabs.”
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