Washington Redskins vs. New York Giants: Five story lines to follow

The Redskins will try to avoid a repeat of Victor Cruz’ 77-yard game-winning touchdown. (Gary Hershorn/Reuters)

The Washington Redskins take on the New York Giants on Monday, looking to extend their winning streak to three games and continue their quest of reaching the playoffs after opening the season with a 3-6 record.

A victory would give the Redskins their first three-game winning streak since 2008 and improve the team’s record to 6-6.

Washington looks to avenge a 27-23 last-minute loss to New York in Week 7.

The Giants enter the game with an NFC East-leading 7-4 record and are three-point favorites. New York owns a 3-2 record on the road this season, while the Redskins are 2-3 at FedEx Field in 2012.

Here are five story lines to follow in this game:

1.) Rematch adjustments – For the first time in his career, Robert Griffin III will face a team that has experience defending him. The Giants did little to contain Griffin in their first matchup, as he completed 20 of 28 passes for 258 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, and carried the ball nine times for 89 yards. The Giants will try to correct the problem areas from their last meeting with the Redskins, but Coach Tom Coughlin said preparing for the quarterback a second time around isn’t any less challenging. New York’s defenders will likely try to take away the edges and keep Griffin in the pocket. But in his last two games, Griffin has remained in the pocket more on his own and has done quite well, throwing a combined eight touchdown passes and just one interception. Tackles Trent Williams and Tyler Polumbus will have their hands full as they try to fend off edge rushers Osi Umenyiora, Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck (all three of whom had a sack each in the first meeting) and keep Griffin upright. Conversely, the Redskins have adjustments to make on both sides of the ball. Look for Kyle Shanahan to throw in more wrinkles on offense to keep the Giants’ defenders guessing. Meanwhile, Jim Haslett and his defense — particularly his secondary — will try to find ways to keep Victor Cruz and the Giants’ other receivers in check the entire game. Last time, the defensive backs did well for the most part but then collapsed with 90 seconds left, yielding the game-winning 77-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning to Cruz.

2.) Garcon’s impact – The Redskins faced the Giants last time without their top offensive weapon, Pierre Garcon, and they lost their second-most explosive pass-catcher (Fred Davis) early in the game. This time around, Garcon will be on the field and figures to be heavily involved in the game plan as he looks to build on his four-catch, 86-yard, one-touchdown performance against Dallas. And when he’s not catching passes, Garcon will likely free up his fellow pass-catchers to make plays as well.

3.) Effectiveness of Fletcher, Williams – The Redskins were without two key players on both sides of the ball as they prepared for the Giants in practice last week, but both London Fletcher and Trent Williams (despite being listed as questionable) aim to play. Mike Shanahan said he doesn’t worry about Fletcher’s availability anymore, but the question is how effective will he and Williams be able to be as they try to play through their injuries (ankle for Fletcher, ankle/thigh for Williams)? Both had significant impacts against the Cowboys while playing on short rest, but Fletcher didn’t finish the game. The Redskins will need strong contributions from both as they try to upset the Giants.

4.) Morris’s milestone – Rookie running back Alfred Morris needs just 18 yards to become the Redskins’ first 1,000-yard rusher since 2008. Considering that he averages 89.3 yards a game, Morris should easily surpass the milestone. He had a career-high 120 yards on 22 carries in his first game against the Giants. Another big day from him should help ensure balance on offense for the Redskins and will set up the play-action attack that Washington uses so effectively.

5.) Punt/kick returns – Brandon Banks has had little impact in the return game, and more often than not, he has done more to hurt his team than help them. Shanahan admitted that the Redskins need more out of the returns department, but said Banks isn’t the only problem. He is, however, a big part of it. Washington’s traditionally strong special teams units – both returns and coverage – must be on point tonight.

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