Week 17's matchup with the Giants has much more significance to the Redskins than their first meeting, which was highlighted by Josh Norman and Odell Beckham squaring off.
The storylines were easy and all-consuming. In the week leading up to the Redskins' Week 3 matchup with the Giants, most of the attention centered on cornerback Josh Norman and wide receiver Odell Beckham.
Some three months later, the final regular season game between these two NFC East rivals has a bigger focus. With a victory over the Giants, the Redskins can secure the sixth seed in the NFC playoffs, barring a tie between the Packers and Lions, leaving Norman happy to push his chippy relationship history out of the media narrative this week.
"The storm has finally settled down, which is awesome," Norman said. "I think these guys just make more out of it than it really is. Now you see going out there on the field, regular guys playing a regular game. You get to see us on Sundays. That's it. Nothing more, nothing less. That's what you get. I don't look too much into it. I'm going to go out there and play the opponent that I face and we'll see what happens after that."
September's game marked the first time since they traded blows with each other (when Norman was a member of the Panthers) that the two would be returning to the scene of the scuffle, facing off against each other after an offseason in which the story about that game and their relationship seemed to intensify with each published interview.
Beckham caught seven passes for 121 yards that day, but was kept out of the end zone. Norman and the Redskins had the last laugh, however. Quarterback Eli Manning threw two interceptions, the second of which sealed a 29-27 victory, Washington's first of the season.
Both teams have made significant strides since that game. Because the Giants have already secured the fifth seed in the playoffs, Sunday's outcome doesn't have any impact on their position in the playoffs. Head coach Ben McAdoo said Wednesday he plans to play his starters, but Norman isn't concerned with whom he faces.
"At the end of the day, we've got to strap up and we've got to put our best foot forward and go out there and get a win," Norman said. "Impose our will on the opponent that we play. And that's what we have to do, regardless of what happens, who plays, who doesn't. Who cares, I don't get involved with that. Whoever is going to come on the field, that's who we're going to see. You're going to see me, you're going to see the rest of the team and everybody else that's a part of it."
Based on the fact that Norman controlled his emotions from spilling over in the team's loss against the Panthers, and hasn't had any problem playing defensive coordinator Joe Barry's direction, head coach Jay Gruden doesn't expect any hysterics to break out this Sunday.
"I think Josh has done an excellent job playing within the system and playing within himself and, you know, the headlines are the headlines, but come game time he's got himself ready to play," Gruden said. "He stays focused on his job, his responsibility and I think he'll do the same thing against Odell and the Giants."
Week 3's matchup was the first time Norman was allowed to shadow Beckham for the majority of the game, showing off more of his skillset as a cornerback. His two interceptions last week against the Bears, part of five the Redskins collected that day, provided some statistical punch to his strong play during the year.
"A lot of people think I can't do a lot of things, but then I'm put in those places to do them and it's like, 'Oh, wow, I didn't know he had that,'" Norman said. "Well, you didn't ask. It's like, wow, you actually receive. Good thing these coaches have versatility to show that. At the same time, you can see that it's helped the team out. That's the biggest thing – it helps the team out. And whatever we can do, we like to do that and be in a position to be able to help the team and make a play."
Norman knows a victory doesn't inherently grant the Redskins a playoff berth, but the circumstances afterward aren't in his hands.
"That doesn't have anything to do with me," Norman said. "At the same time, I'm just trying to go out here and try to get a W – nothing more, nothing less. Anything else, I can't control."