The New York Giants and Washington Commanders are playing their biggest game in years -- that's not an overstatement. As the NFC East rivals square off on "Sunday Night Football," one of the playoff spots in the NFC is at stake, as the winner will have the inside track toward locking up a wild card spot with three games to play.
The Commanders (7-5-1) enter Sunday's game as the No. 6 seed in the playoffs, holding a conference-record tiebreaker over the Giants (both teams tied in their first meeting two weeks ago). A win will have Washington a game up on New York -- with a head-to-head tiebreaker in hand -- and 1.5 games up on the Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions for the final playoff spot.
The Giants (7-5-1) hold the same record as the Commanders heading into this showdown. New York would take over the No. 6 seed in the conference with three games to play with a victory, holding a head-to-head tiebreaker over Washington and a 1.5-game lead over Seattle and Detroit. With three games to play, the Giants would be in excellent shape toward making the playoffs for the first time in six years.
No matter the result, the loser will still be the No. 7 seed in the playoffs with three games to play. The winner -- on the other hand -- will have full control over their playoff fate heading into Christmas. Here's the blueprint for each team to come away with a victory, along with how to watch Sunday's showdown.
How to watch
When: Sunday, Dec. 18 | Time: 8:15 p.m. ET
Where: FedEx Field (Landover, Maryland)
TV: NBC | Stream: fuboTV (try for free)
Follow: CBS Sports App
Odds: Commanders -4.5, O/U 40.5 (courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook)
How the Giants can beat the Commanders
The odds certainly don't favor the Giants heading into the rematch with the Commanders. A depleted defense has allowed 28.3 points per game over the last six games, as New York's lone win in that stretch was against the Houston Texans. The Giants started strong against the Commanders in the first meeting, but were held scoreless for the final 36 minutes and 37 seconds in the tie -- a microcosm of the offense over the past several weeks.
Saquon Barkley has struggled over the past several weeks (2.9 yards per carry), and only rushed for 63 yards in the first meeting. The Giants used the Daniel Jones rollout to move the football against the Commanders, as Jones threw for 200 yards with a touchdown and rushed for 71 yards (averaged 5.9 yards per carry). With a banged-up offensive line, the Giants will have to keep the Commanders pass rush on its heels and give Jones the option to take off or throw the football by rolling him out. Having Barkley become more effective in the ground game will help as well.
Washington had the ball for 41:11 in the last meeting, so it's imperative New York sustains drives and keeps its defense off the field. Long scoring drives are way better than three-and-outs at this stage of the season.
How the Commanders can beat the Giants
Washington gets a major advantage in the rematch, having just played New York two weeks ago and playing the Giants coming off the bye week. The Commanders basically had three weeks to prepare for the same opponent, including 70 minutes of game film from two weeks ago from the Week 13 tie.
Over the past eight games, the Commanders have allowed just 16.0 points per game and rushed for 146.6 yards per game. The Commanders rushed for 165 yards in the Week 13 tie against the Giants, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. The Giants have allowed 5.36 yards per carry, the second-highest in the Super Bowl era. Washington will have to stick to the tried-and-true formula and hand the ball off to Antonio Gibson and Brian Robinson Jr., controlling the clock and wearing down an already depleted New York defense.
The Giants won't have Josh Ezeudu and Shane Lemieux on the offensive line, leaving the ioffensive line thin once again. The Commanders pass rush will have to get home against Daniel Jones and force New York into third-and-long situations, especially with Saquon Barkley averaging just 2.9 yards per carry over the last four games -- worst amongst 25 players with 40-plus carries in that stretch.
Washington just has to run the ball and not turn it over. Simple plan right?
Daniel Jones prime-time record
Jones is 0-9 in his career in prime-time games, the longest losing streak to begin a career in such matchups in NFL history. In his nine prime-time games, Jones has 12 passing touchdowns to 13 interceptions with a 74.2 passer rating -- so he hasn't necessarily helped the Giants win those games.
In his lone prime-time start ("Monday Night Football'' in Week 3), Jones went 20 of 37 for for 196 yards with an interception, while rushing for 79 yards. Jones was sacked five times in the loss and has been sacked 29 times in his nine prime-time starts.
If the Giants are going to make the playoffs, Jones will have to end this hex of failing to win in prime-time games.