New York Giants @ Washington Redskins
Start-time: Friday, 01:30
TV: Live on SS1
Robert Griffin III is out of action - and possibly the Washington Redskins' franchise - with no definitive timetable for his likely recovery. Time to face it: the Skins' star attraction, rookie of the year for 2012, is now rusting up on blocks. What no-one in the Redskin camp will admit to, though, is that they're glad.
RG3 has been replaced by the safer yet even greener Kirk Cousins and coach John Gruden is the happier for it, too. His offense needed less of a Maverick, more of an Ice Man. Someone who would follow orders and not rely on his pacy paws and hopeless heaves into double-coverage to blast his way out of trouble. Cousins is the straight A-road, Griffin the sidewinding mountain pass. The views aren't so great with Cousins at the helm, but the results won't career off a cliff.
Not that Gruden doesn't want to zoom up and down the park with some rapid-fire airtime. Indeed, such play-calls used to define him. Rather, the boss has recognised that his team possess a strong rushing game and a defense which can occasionally kick opposing offenses off the park. Cousins still has potential, though, and in the recovering DeSean Jackson (an 81-yard grab on Sunday after a shoulder strain), a receiver who can make him look good. Even tight end Jordan Reed can help him out.
Eli Manning, however, has been throwing like a man running out of options. Hard on the heels of another season topping the charts for interceptions (an incredible third gong), Manning Jnr could do with a lesson in percentage precision from his older brother. "Ah, but I've got more Super Bowl rings than you," might come the fraternal retort. Mind-blowing though it is, he'd be right.
And in a timely shot in the arm, Eli produced a performance last weekend more in keeping with his innate ability, throwing two touchdowns and generally minimising the mistakes which have plagued the Giants' offense. In fact, everyone stepped up a little - RB Rashad Jennings churned the turf for a career-best 176 yards, while even Victor Cruz hauled in a 26-yard end-zone connection.
Nevertheless, Big Blue's receiving crew still looks horribly out of sync and Manning must maintain precision to keep his pick-rate down. Else he may complete a ignominious four-fold in the NFL's end-of-year Razzies. Nevertheless, Eli will take heart from Washington leaking 37 points in Philly at the weekend. But just as one swallow doesn't make a summer, nor does one wheezing case of pneumonia bring on winter. And the Redskins' improving D could enjoy a second wind with some lightweight opposition lining up against their front four.
More broadly, Manning is representative of the gun-toting signal callers which dominate the NFC East. Tony Romo (Dallas), Nick Foles (Philly) both offer good yet erratic company, while the unexposed Cousins stands alone as a yes-sir-three-bags-full-sir character. He may lack the poise of Manning, his arm, his experience, his reading of the blitz. However, his latest 427 yards for three scores and one pick wasn't too shabby, albeit in a reckless shootout.
So on the current balance of these two offenses, Cousins' corps rates much the safer bet.
Back Washington Redskins (-3.5) to win on the Match Points Spread @ 2.111/10 or better
Back Washington Redskins to win on the First Half Moneyline @ 1.84/5 or better
Back Washington Redskins to win Half Time / Full Time @ 2.56/4 or better
Back D.Jackson to score First Touchdown 9.08/1 or better