The NFC East has surprisingly been one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL, and two of its upstart teams will square off on Sunday afternoon. The Washington Commanders will head north to face the New York Giants in their first meeting this season. The Giants last played on Thanksgiving, where they lost 28-20 to the Dallas Cowboys. Washington defeated the Atlanta Falcons at home on Sunday by a final score of 19-13.
As both teams try to remain in the hunt for an NFC playoff spot, we’ll take a look at three keys to the game.
Washington Just Finds A Way
After a month and a half’s worth of games, it did not feel like the Commanders would have anything meaningful to play for down the stretch. They weren’t moving the ball, and didn’t feel like they had the level of hunger necessary to win. Head coach Ron Rivera’s job security was being discussed as it seemed like the team wasn’t getting up every week.
Things have dramatically changed since Washington’s difficult start. The team has won three straight games, and six out of seven games overall dating back to October 13. It’s never pretty, but Washington’s performance under fill-in starter Taylor Heinicke appears to be much more inspired than it was under Carson Wentz. If the team continues to win, expect Heinicke to remain under center.
Will Chase Young Make His 2022 Debut?
It seems like just a matter of when, and not if Washington star pass rusher Chase Young will make his season debut. He was activated from the team’s injured reserve list last week, which was a notable positive in his progression to recover from an ACL injury suffered last season. Young appeared in a few Commanders’ practices last week on a limited basis, and figures to practice in some capacity this week.
There is a narrative that exists which alludes to the turf at MetLife Stadium being less safe to play on than other surfaces in the league. Washington has said that this won’t be a factor when deciding whether Young will suit up or not against the Giants.
Consider Barkley’s Carry Total
It isn’t like the Giants came into the season with a plethora of offensive weapons, so it was pretty predictable that the team would move the ball thanks to the play of quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley. In the last couple of weeks though, Barkley hasn’t been as involved in the running game as he was earlier in the year.
In his last two contests, the former Penn State star has 15 carries and 11 carries respectively, both New York losses. It’s unclear if the Giants intended to limit Barkley’s workload after relying on him considerably in earlier games, but they may not have the luxury of keeping the ball out of the hands of their best player. If this is part of a determined maintenance plan, expect Gary Brightwell to see a few more totes out of the backfield.