EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The Washington Commanders and New York Giants entered the season with the goal of closing the gap on the perennial frontrunners in the NFL East, the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys.
Inching toward the halfway point and with a game against New York at MetLife Stadium up next on Sunday, the Commanders (3-3) are a lot closer to success than the offensively inept Giants, who have lost four straight and dropped to 1-5.
There’s a lot at stake for both teams. Washington finished only a game out of a playoff spot a year ago — and that was in large part due to being 0-1-1 in its two games against New York.
The Giants, who made the playoffs a year ago with a 9-7-1 mark, are in must-win territory. Only three teams since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 have started 1-5 and made the postseason. Only the ’70 Bengals started 1-6 and got to the playoffs.
“We may be 1-5, but it’s a long season ahead of us and we’ve lost only one divisional game,” Giants linebacker Bobby Okereke. “So it’s just getting that urgency, it’s not wholesale changes. It’s just doing the little things even better. If we can get a win in our back pocket, we can start rolling.”
Both teams played well last week. The Commanders beat the Falcons in Atlanta to snap a three-game losing streak, while the Giants played their most complete game of the season in dropping a 14-9 decision to Buffalo on Sunday night.
Commanders coach Ron Rivera is expecting another good game from New York since it involves another NFC East team.
“I think that’s probably the biggest one more than anything else,” he said. “It’s a divisional game and you’re going to play against your divisional rivals a little better. At least I believe you typically should because you know them a little bit more. Because of that, I think that’s what really brings the game to being pretty evenly matched.”
CALLING THE SIGNALS
The Giants are expected to start backup Tyrod Taylor at quarterback for the second straight week. After missing the Bills game because of a neck injury, Daniel Jones was limited in practice this week.
Taylor played well against the Bills. The 13-year veteran was 24 of 36 for 200 yards and ran five times for 24 yards in his first start since 2021. His last start in Washington was in 2015 for Buffalo, a game in which he threw two touchdown passes to Sammy Watkins in a 35-25 loss.
The Giants’ offense hasn’t scored a first-half touchdown this season, and hasn’t scored in 205 minutes over the last three-plus games.
After riding the bench for the entire game with zero snaps last weekend, Commanders rookie cornerback Emmanuel Forbes said he has “no clue” what the coaching staff’s plan is for him this weekend.
Rivera, who decided to sit the first-round pick late in a home loss to Chicago on Oct. 5, said there’s a difficult balance between wanting Forbes and other young players to develop and trying to win games.
Forbes has been thrown at 27 times, giving up 20 catches for 401 yards — the second most of any defender in the NFL this season. The 22-year-old Mississippi State product insists he isn’t bothered by the uncertainty he’s mired in at the moment.
“I just come in and do my job,” Forbes said. “As long as I do my job and give myself the best opportunity to play, I can’t complain about that.”
GATES GOES BACK
This will be the first chance for former Giants offensive lineman Nick Gates to face his old team since signing with Washington. Gates played his first four pro seasons with the Giants and says he has no hard feelings toward them.
“It’s a business,” Gates said. “It’s part of this league. You’ve got to move on, and you’re going to go to other teams. It’ll be nice to see all my buddies and all the old training stuff and stuff, but other than that it’s just a football game.”
With LT Andrew Thomas (hamstring) and center John Michael Schmitz (shoulder) very unlikely to play, the Giants’ offensive line probably will be “straight off the couch” Justin Pugh at LT, Mark Glowinski at LG, Ben Bredeson at C, Marcus McKethan at RG and Evan Neal (ankle) at RT.
With Shane Lemieux (torn biceps) on IR, the backups will be Tyre Phillips, Joshua Miles and Sean Harlow. who were all signed off the practice squads of other teams in the last week.
The Giants have not had the same starting offensive line in consecutive games this season.
OKEREKE IS OK
The Giants signed inside linebacker Bobby Okereke as a free agent in the offseason after the Stanford product led the Colts in tackles. It took him a couple of games to fit in but the five-year veteran has been making plays all over the field lately, with double-digit tackles in three straight games.
He leads the team with 53 tackles, including five for losses, and has five passes defensed, two forced fumbles and an interception.
In a game against Miami two weeks ago, he tipped a pass that safety Jason Pinnock returned 102 yards for a touchdown and also had a pick of his own. Against the Bills, he had a forced fumble and a tipped pass that fellow linebacker Micah McFadden recovered and intercepted.
AP Sports Writer Stephen Whyno contributed to this report
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