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RGIII WILL FEEL FIRST TASTE OF NFL PRESSURE WHEN GIANTS VISIT REDSKINS ON MONDAY NIGHT

So far it's been a long honeymoon period for Robert Griffin III in his rookie season as quarterback for the Washington Redskins. Nobody expects a rookie to lead his team to the playoffs. As long as there's promise for doing that in the near future, fans are happy. But, this week, the reality has set in that THIS version of the Redskins COULD make the playoffs...and sports bettors will have to determine if RGIII can handle the pressure of lifted expectations.

At home
Against the division leader
And its star quarterback
With a proven championship pedigree

It's RGIII and the Washington Redskins hosting Eli Manning and the NY Giants in a game that will surely have a playoff atmosphere because of what's at stake. Even with a 5-6 record, Washington is still a serious Wildcard contender in the competitive NFC. A win tonight would put them at .500 and right in the thick of the race for the sixth and final playoff spot.

But, a win tonight would also move them within a game of the Giants in the NFC East...which would make them a serious contender for first place!

Pencil in, just for a moment, a Washington victory Monday Night.

Records: NY Giants 7-5, Washington 6-6
Head-to-Head: Split 1-1
Divisional Record: Washington 3-1, NY Giants 2-3

Washington would have the better tie-breaker...which means they would be just a game out of the rewards that come with first place (a home game in the first week of the playoffs). That's not a longshot by any means because the Giants must still play at Atlanta and at Baltimore on December 16 and 23.

That's why Monday Night's game is so important. If Washington wins, they become a serious threat to win the NFC East, let alone earn a Wildcard. If they lose, they'll fall three games behind NYG with only four to play, and they'll have been swept head-to-head which kills their tie-breaker chances. The divisional crown is virtually out of reach, and earning a Wildcard from a 5-7 ledger through 12 games would be a longshot.

The honeymoon is over RGIII. Your REAL welcome to the NFL comes Monday Night against the Giants in a game fans and sports bettors will be watching very intently.

NY GIANTS at WASHINGTON REDSKINS (8:35 p.m. on ESPN)
Las Vegas Spread: NY Giants by 2.5, total of 51

Home field advantage is worth three points, so the market is saying the Giants would be favored by 5.5 on a neutral field, and 8-5 at home. Since the line was just NYG -6.5 up in New Jersey back in late October, that's a bit of a disconnect. Are the Giants two points better since then? Is Washington two points worse? This line didn't move to the key number of three because many in Vegas believed it was a tad high to begin with. Note also that the Giants only won that game 27-23.

WON-LOST RECORDS (schedule strength according to USA Today)
NY Giants: 7-4 (13th ranked schedule)
Washington: 5-6 (9th ranked schedule)

You already knew the records. Washington's played the slightly tougher schedule, which gives them a real shot to compete here and down the stretch for a spot in the postseason. We're not suggesting that Washington is championship material by any means. There are real weaknesses which have caused that 5-6 record. They'd be over .500 against a league average schedule, which is worth keeping in mind.

TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL
NY Giants: +13
Washington: +12

Great job by both teams in this area. Washington has run a very conservative offense with RGIII as he learns the ropes. It's possible he becomes more turnover prone down the stretch as they loosen the reigns a bit and the pressure gets to him. It's also possible he's already a star, and they'll be fine! Eli Manning used to be a turnover machine under pressure when he was young. He's a proven star now who has the risk/reward element in proper perspective.

OFFENSIVE STATS
NY Giants: 369.5 yards-per-game on 5.9 yards-per-play
Washington: 384.9 yards-per-game on 6.2 yards-per-play

Amazing that Washington has advantages on this side of the ball with a rookie quarterback and a conservative offense. They could really be scary in the next few seasons if RGIII grows into bigger responsibilities well. Mike Shanahan has run some productive offenses in his career! The Giants are solid, so this is a battle of quality offenses.

DEFENSIVE STATS
NY Giants: 366.6 yards-per-game on 5.9 yards-per-play
Washington: 390.5 yards-per-game on 6.0 yards-per-play

Washington had some truly horrible numbers earlier in the season. They've fixed some of their issues, with only Dallas topping 400 yards against them within the last five games. We have to say that the Giants numbers are a big surprise. They were supposed to be better than this with many of their healthy bodies back. We know they're capable of being better than this. Getting the job done has been surprisingly elusive in terms of consistency this year. If both play to their known peaks...then the Giants have a clear defensive edge. If not...then yards-per-play is so close that this becomes a toss-up. Well, to be honest, it becomes a neutral field toss-up and this game is in Washington. The version of the Giants that shut down San Francisco and Green Bay needs to show up this week if New York is going to take care of business in the divisional race.

LAST WEEK'S BOXES

NY GIANTS 38, GREEN BAY 10
Total Yardage: Green Bay 317, NY Giants 390
Rushing Yards: Green Bay 116, NY Giants 147
Passing Stats: Green Bay 15-27-1-201, NY Giants 16-30-0-243
Turnovers: Green Bay 2, NY Giants 0
Third Downs: Green Bay 42%, NY Giants 50%
Vegas Line: NY Giants by 3, total of 51

There you go. Only 317 yards allowed to Green Bay, with Aaron Rodgers barely getting to 200 yards in the air. You also have two turnovers forced from the G-Men. If we see THIS level of defense again, then the Vegas line is right, or even a bit low. Possibly the toughest task for handicappers and sports bettors in Monday's matchup is determining which version of the Giants defense is going to show up.

WASHINGTON 38, DALLAS 31
Total Yardage: Washington 437, Dallas 458
Rushing Yards: Washington 142, Dallas 35
Passing Stats: Washington 20-28-1-295, Dallas 37-62-2-423
Turnovers: Washington 1, Dallas 3
Third Downs: Washington 50%, Dallas 47%
Vegas Line: Dallas by 3, total of 47

The Redskins jumped to a big early lead. So, their yardage loss reflects Dallas desperation. You can see that the Cowboys topped 400 yards in the air. But, they also lost the turnover category handily...which negated all that production. Take your eyes away from passing yardage for a second and look at the passing lines. Washington had only 8 incomplete passes, Dallas 25. Washington was the much sharper team, and maintaining that sharpness gives them upset potential vs. the Giants.

BEST EXPECTATION
It comes down to the Giants defense in our view. They allowed over 400 yards and exactly 7.0 yards-per-carry in the first meeting. Do that on the road...and this is going to be an embarrassing loss. Play at the levels everyone saw in the routs of San Francisco and Green Bay, and RGIII will be reminded that he's still a rookie and there's a lot more learning to do before he thinks about making the playoffs.

JIM HURLEY has been working closely with his New York sources to gauge the mindset of the G-Men. And, he's been studying the outputs from the computer simulation software that can account for various versions of the Giants defense. That's created some possibilities with the Over/Under too.

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