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Posted at 12:43 PM ET, 12/16/2011

Redskins-Giants: Key matchups to watch

The Washington Redskins face the New York Giants Sunday for the second time this season, hoping to complete the season sweep of their NFC East rivals for the first time since 1999.

The Giants enter the game with a 7-6 record and lead the division. Washington owns a 4-9 mark and are last in the NFC East.

The Giants have won nine of the last 11 meetings with the Redskins, and three straight over Washington when playing in East Rutherford.

Here are some of the key matchups for this week’s game:

WSH LT Willie Smith vs. NY DE Jason Pierre-Paul

Playing in only his second NFL game, Smith will need a strong performance as he goes against Pierre-Paul, who leads New York with 12.5 sacks this season. At 6-foot-5, 278 pounds, Pierre-Paul has great size, speed and athleticism. Smith (6-foot-6, 290 pounds) has good size and athleticism as well, but is raw and inexperienced. Smith struggled early last week against the Patriots, but made improvements as the game went on, and the Redskins are hoping he can continue his progress this week. If he struggles, veteran Sean Locklear likely will relieve him.

WSH LBs London Fletcher, Perry Riley vs. NY RB Brandon Jacobs

Jacobs and fellow back Ahmad Bradshaw have been limited by injuries this season, and because of that, the Giants rank 32nd in rushing, averaging just 85.8 yards per game. But Jacobs appears to be rounding back into form. Last week, he rushed for 100 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries against the Cowboys. The Redskins will need a strong tackling performance. London Fletcher leads the NFL with 134 tackles, and Riley continues to improve while averaging 10.2 tackles a game in five straight starts. The two inside linebackers and their teammates can’t afford to let Jacobs get going as he has so many times in their past meetings.

WSH CB Kevin Barnes vs. NY WR Victor Cruz

Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett calls Cruz one of the better slot receivers in the NFL. The second-year pro leads the Giants with 68 catches for 1,150 yards and seven touchdowns. It could be a busy day for Redskins nickelback Kevin Barnes, who generally covers those slot receivers and has two interceptions on the year. Barnes must be solid in coverage and keep Eli Manning’s favorite target from running free in the secondary.

WSH WRs Santana Moss, Jabar Gaffney vs. NY CBs Corey Webster, Aaron Ross

The Redskins will again need strong performances from receivers Moss and Gaffney as they try to attack a Giants defense that ranks 29th in the league against the pass, surrendering 264 yards a game through the air. Moss last week had three catches for 81 yards and a touchdown, but he was targeted nine times and should’ve had a larger impact. Gaffney has been reliable all season, with 52 catches for 757 yards and four touchdowns. To make up for the absence of Fred Davis, the Redskins went with more three and four receiver sets, so look for Donte Stallworth and Anthony Armstrong to receive opportunities this week as well.

WSH OLBs Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan vs. NY Ts David Diehl, Kareem McKenzie

The Redskins hope to harass Manning keep him from getting comfortable. Manning is making better decisions this season, getting rid of the ball more quickly and putting up career numbers. Orakpo and Kerrigan have to win their one-on-one matchups with Diehl and McKenzie so they can pressure Manning. The Redskins didn’t have a sack two weeks ago against the Jets, and only one against Patriots quarterback Tom Brady last week. They need to get to Manning multiple times.

More on the Redskins:

Landry put on injured reserve

Redskins building via the draft

Arrington: Redskins must stay motivated

By  |  12:43 PM ET, 12/16/2011

 
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