The Washington Football Team has one last shot at grabbing a win to wrap up the 2021 season, and it will come on the road against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium.
It's been a while since the NFC East rivals faced each other -- 121 days, to be exact -- and things have not gone the way either team wanted this year. Despite a riveting four-game win streak at the halfway point of the season, Washington (6-10) has failed to retain the division crown. The Giants (4-12) struggled to string wins together all season and are currently on a five-game skid.
Playoffs will not be in play on Sunday, but both teams will be playing to win. Here's a look at how things have changed for the Giants since the Week 2 matchup.
1. New year, new QB.
On Thursday Night Football, Washington had to contend with Daniel Jones and his ability to move outside of the pocket. The team shouldn't have to worry about that with New York's remaining options.
With Jones on Injured Reserve, the Giants have had to settle with eight-year veteran Mike Glennon and Jake Fromm, who was taken in the fifth-round by the Buffalo Bills in 2020. Both have started in Jones' absence, but the results have not been enough to give the Giants much-needed victories. Fromm has completed 41% of his passes for 107 yards and a touchdown, while Glennon has thrown for 790 yards with four touchdowns and 10 interceptions in six games this season.
Glennon suffered a wrist injury in the Giants' loss to the Chicago Bears, and it was reported on Jan. 4 by USA Today that Fromm would get the start against Washington. Fromm had a highly successful career at Georgia, taking the Bulldogs to Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl Championships, but is largely unproven at the professional level. It should provide an opportunity for Washington's defensive line to put pressure on the young signal-caller and end the season on a high note.
The Washington Football Team begins its final week of practice for the 2021 season ahead of its Week 18 road trip against the New York Giants. (Photos by Emilee Fails/Washington Football Team)
2. An inconsistent running game.
Jones isn't the only player who has dealt with injuries issues this season. Saquon Barkley, the Giants' most potent backfield threat, has been on and off the injury report all season, and he hasn't performed up to expectations when he is on the field.
Barkley has rushed 563 yards on 151 carries this season, marking a career-low in seasons where he's played in at least 10 games (his 2020 season was cut short because of injury). Some of that is not his fault; he missed time with an ankle injury and was placed in the league's COVID-19 protocols. Barkley returned in Week 11, but he has failed to rush for at least 60 yards in all but two games.
Devontae Booker, a six-year vet who spent four seasons with the Denver Broncos, has stepped up in his place and is the team's current leading rusher with 579 yards and two touchdowns. Booker and Barkley have a relatively even number of carries (151-137), with Booker's average (4.2) being slightly higher than that of Barkley.
Still, Barkley has a history of breaking off big runs against Washington, so the defense will need to bottle him up as much as possible.
3. Azeez Ojulari is an emerging star.
The Giants' defense as a whole have performed slightly below average this season, but after 16 games, it's clear that rookie Azeez Ojulari is an impressive piece for the team to build around going forward.
Ojulari, the Giants' 2021 second-round pick out of Georgia, leads the team with eight sacks and is the first rookie in Giants history to record a sack in their first three games. He has 11 quarterback hits this season to go with 28 solo tackles.
Ojulari is just one part of a talented Giants defensive front, which also includes Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence. The trio will certainly be a challenge for Washington's offensive line, which has performed well in terms of pass-block win rate. Assuming the group can protect Taylor Heinicke from the pass-rushers, it should give Heinicke time to work against a secondary that has given up 233.8 yards per game through the air.