Romilly Evans previews a must-win game for both these NFC East rivals, and fancies Big Blue to edge the wafer-thin Skins at home
"The Book of Eli has been a real page-turner ever since its NFL chapters began - part trashy airport flick, part thrilling Booker Prize original"
Washington Redskins @ New York Giants
Start-time: Friday, 01:30
TV: Live on SS1
We're not even nudging into October, but the New York Giants already appear to have a crisis on their hands as early as Week Three. Terrible eleventh-hour decisions (from coach and quarterback) have cost them dearly against both Dallas and Atlanta, and now 0-2 Big Blue desperately need to stop the rot against the Washington Redskins to rescue their regular season.
QB Eli Manning and HC Tom Coughlin have stuck their paws up and accepted combined responsibility for their last-minute failures of judgement (e.g. calling passing plays when they only needed to keep the clock running). However, it seems ageism and impatience have effectively ensured this will be the final year at the controls for this once dynamic duo.
Manning, of course, will remain. But Coughlin (fast-approaching septuagenarian status) should retire as gracefully as an old dog of war can. Fair enough, one might opine, yet Giants fans should think of him fondly for his wise stewardship of Eli the rookie. They've garnered two Super Bowl rings in the past nine years, remember. Not too shabby.
Indeed, in fairness to Coughlin, the brain-freezes have largely been Manning's. Coughing up the ball needlessly in the red-zone, missing open receivers on a comeback drive, it's hardly MVP stuff. Then again, say what you will, but The Book of Eli has been a real page-turner ever since its NFL chapters began - part trashy airport flick, part thrilling Booker Prize original. You never know whence the next redeeming plot twist, or poorly conceived narrative is coming.
This match with the Skins represents a pivotal rivalry, and an avenue to bounce back from adversity with trademark swagger. Their NFC East division is wide-open after the Cowboys' Tony Romo broke his left clavicle for the second time and the Dallas talisman will miss much of the ensuing campaign. The divisional favourites in Philly have also made a false start, so there's plenty of jockeying for position to come, methinks.
Make no mistake, though, Eli can still effortlessly shift on offense. And with human highlight reel Odell Beckham Jnr continuing to impress at wideout (after his breakout Offensive Rookie of the Year gong), Manning has a potent weapon. For even when Beckham's tied up in double-team coverage, options naturally open up elsewhere (watch for the improving Dwayne Harris). Now all the G-Men need is Shane Vereen to step up at RB to provide a semblance of running game and balance will be restored.
The Redskins may have found their own equilibrium, with new recruit Matt Jones (123 yards and two touchdowns last Sunday versus St Louis) allied to the competent, nay flawless Kirk Cousins. Cousins connected with 23 of 27 for 207 yards and no picks against the Rams, and forerunner Robert Griffin III is now looking like an overpriced benchwarmer in Washington.
Nevertheless, don't tell me Cousins is the answer to their QB woes. All he does is minimise their mistakes, while the exciting Jones is nevertheless inexperienced and prone to fumbles. Silly as it presently sounds, Manning and Beckham provide a safer pair of hands to steer the Giants back on track. Their defense may be makeshift, but it's stepping up. Vereen, as I say, could hold the key here. If he can move the chains, Redskin corners won't be able to press their focus so much on Manning. Consequently, despite the tight Vegas lines, this encounter could be surprisingly straightforward.
Back New York Giants (-3.5) to win on the Match Points Spread @ 1.9110/11 or better
Back New York Giants (-10.5) to win on the Match Points Spread @ 4.57/2 or better
Back New York Giants (-2.5) to win on the First Half Points Spread @ 2.01/1 or better
Back Over 24.5 Total New York Giants Points @ 1.9110/11 or better
Back O. Beckham to score First / Anytime Touchdown 8.07/1 or better
Romilly's 2015 NFL P&L
Staked - 13pts
Returned - 9.48pts
P&L - -3.52pts
Excludes antepost previews