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Rivera: SNF matchup vs. Giants 'awesome' opportunity 


The stakes were already high for the Washington Commanders' rematch against the New York Giants in Week 15 at FedExField after the two teams settled for a 20-20 tie at MetLife Stadium. 

Now, the game with heavy division and playoff implications will be decided on one of the NFL's biggest stages, as the league announced that the matchup has been flexed to Sunday Night Football on Dec. 18. 

There are 13 days between now and the home contest, but coach Ron Rivera is already excited about seeing his team perform. 

"I think the opportunity is awesome. I really do," Rivera told reporters during his Monday press conference. "First of all, it's the national stage. It is a big stage. One-third of the population is on the Eastern Seaboard, so we know they'll all be tuned in."

The movement to place the game on primetime adds more juice to what was already going to be an important moment for both teams with the outcome having a reverberating effect on the playoff picture in the NFC. New York is currently clinging to the No. 6 seed with a 7-4-1 record, while Washington, which had the No. 7 seed prior to the tie, is the first team out after the Seattle Seahawks' dramatic win over the Los Angeles Rams.

A win for either team strengthens its chances of making the postseason; conversely, a loss means that Washington or New York faces a tremendous challenge to stay in the hunt.

Rivera is "pretty fired up" for his players, because he feels there are members of the roster that have earned more exposure. The list includes the likes of Daron Payne, who is third among all defensive tackles with 8.5 sacks and is having a career season; No. 1 receiver Terry McLaurin, who is just 55 yards away from his third-straight 1,000-yard season; and others such as Montez Sweat and Brian Robinson.

"This is about as big a stage as we've been on since the Monday night game [against the Philadelphia Eagles] or the Thursday night game [against the Chicago Bears]," Rivera said. "This is a great opponent for us. They matched us on Sunday, so it's pretty cool. We're pretty even, so it'll be a fun night."

Check out the top photos of the Washington Commanders taking on the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium in Week 13. (Photos by Emilee Fails and Kourtney Carroll/Washington Commanders)

The Dec. 18 game will be the first Sunday Night Football matchup at FedExField since 2017, and Washington has fared well under the lights since Rivera took over in 2020. The team is 6-2 in primetime games, regular and postseason, in that span (7-2 if accounting for the 2020 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, which was moved to Monday at 5 p.m. because of a COVID-19 outbreak).

The most recent showing came against the Eagles in Week 10, when Washington travelled to Philadelphia and upset the last remaining undefeated team, 32-21.

In the meantime, the Commanders do have the luxury of resting up during their bye week while the Giants must play the Eagles before the rematch. It could not come at a better time, either; starting center Tyler Larsen left Sunday's game with an injury, and Sweat was evaluated for a concussion. Sam Cosmi, who was the starting right guard, also left the game with an ankle injury.

Rivera said the extra time off is going to help "an awful lot."

"I know that this week will be a good rest week for our players, an opportunity for them to take care of themselves, get themselves right and see what happens as they prepare for this stretch of four games left to go," Rivera said.

As Rivera alluded, the Commanders have a challenging stretch for the final four games, including a road matchup against the NFC West-leading San Francisco 49ers, who are currently dealing with Brock Purdy as their starting quarterback for now, but have one of the best defenses in the league.

For now, all of Washington's attention is focused on beating the Giants with the playoffs in the balance. Rivera is hoping that plenty of fans will turn out to support them at FedExField.

"It'd be awesome to have a great turnout," Rivera said. "I think we're working towards that. We're trending in that direction."

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