The Washington Football Team will try to improve on its division record when it plays the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium Sunday. (A comprehensive preview of the game can be found, HERE.)
Here are three keys for Washington entering the Week 6 matchup:
Washington's offense has struggled so far this season; it ranks last in total yards and 31st in efficiency, according to Football Outsiders. But wide receiver Terry McLaurin and versatile running back Antonio Gibson have proven themselves as two of the team's best weapons, and good things tend to happen when the ball is in their hands.
McLaurin, who has the 14th-highest receiving grade in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus, has 29 receptions for 413 yards. In the 19 career games, he has 22 receptions that have resulted in gains of at least 20 yards. He already has two 100-yard games, which is just one less than he had in his rookie season.
Gibson has been asked to handle multiple responsibilities, according to head coach Ron Rivera, but he has quickly become one of Washington's key offensive pieces. He has 335 total yards, which is second only to McLaurin, and he averages nearly five yards per touch. Gibson already has more rushes in five games (55) than he did in two seasons at Memphis (33), and Rivera wants to get him the ball more often.
"We believe he can, and we're going to see if he can handle it or not. He's done some good things for us," Rivera said. "Seventy touches in five games is really not a lot if you really think about it. That's only  a game. This is a guy who we think can handle a little bit more of a load. We're going to continue to work him and have him grow and develop as a football player."
Like the rest of Washington's offense, Gibson and McLaurin struggled to find production against the Los Angeles Rams in inclement weather that hounded FedExField. The duo accounted for 77 yards, which is their lowest total of the season. McLaurin only had three receptions for 26 yards.
If Washington wants to come away from MetLife Stadium with its first win since Week 1, it will need to get more production from Gibson and McLaurin. The best example of what they can do came two weeks ago against the Baltimore Ravens. Although Washington struggled to put points on the scoreboard, it nearly matched the Ravens with 343 total yards fueled by 118 yards from McLaurin and 128 yards from Gibson.
The Giants are 11th in pass defense and 15th in rush defense. That provides a challenge for Washington, but it has proven healthy doses from McLaurin and Gibson can help the offense be a more effective unit.
Washington's defensive line made an impression on the NFL by recording eight sacks against the Philadelphia Eagles, but since then it has put up more pedestrian results.
After starting off the season leading the league in sacks, Washington currently ranks sixth with 15. There have certainly been flashes of its talent; Montez Sweat brought down Rams quarterback Jared Goff for a nine-yard loss and leads the team with three sacks. However, the defensive line has not shown the smothering presence that was on display in Week 1.
That could change against the Giants. Quarterback Daniel Jones has been pressured on a league-worst 46.2% of his dropbacks, according to PFF, and he has been sacked16 times this season, which is the fourth-most in the NFL.
"Definitely a lot of opportunities," said defensive end Chase Young. "Daniel Jones, he's a first-round pick. They say the numbers aren't there for him, but the talent is there. He still makes a lot of real, real good plays on film, so it's just a guy that you can't sleep on."
Getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks results in turnovers, which has been one of Jones' primary issues in his two-year career. He has thrown 17 interceptions and lost 14 of his 22 fumbles. That bodes well for Washington's defense, which is tied for third interceptions (six) and 13th in turnovers.
"The first game, we all saw how effective [pressuring the quarterback] was -- sacks turned into turnovers, which were fumbles, interceptions," said linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis. "The D-line has been playing good, the [defensive] tackles had an amazing game last week, and in the back end, we're just going to help out the D-line and make sure they can get after the passer, and then we'll reap the benefits from that."
Washington's defense had several issues in last week's 30-10 loss, but allowing Goff and the Rams' offense to move down the field in chunks was certainly one of the biggest. It allowed 11 plays that resulted in gains of at least 10 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown from Robert Woods.
Those problems stem from inconsistency, according to Rivera, which is why he and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio have made personnel shifts like trying Deshazor Everett at free safety and getting Cole Holcomb more involved in the rotation at linebacker.
"We haven't learned to sustain the success. That's important," Rivera said. "You've got to do it over 60 minutes. It's not these moments that you have where you sit there and say: 'Oh, well we played well in the second and third quarter. Oh, we played well in the second half.' No, that's a moment. You've got to do it over a period of time and that period of time is 60 minutes. That's the frustration that I have that we don't play consistently well for 60 minutes."
Fortunately, Washington is facing one of the NFL's least productive offenses. The Giants rank 30th in total offense and have an explosive play rate of just 7%, according to Sharp Football. It also ranks last in efficiency with a Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) of -16.5%.
It's a reprieve for Washington after matching up against the Rams, Ravens, Cleveland Browns and Arizona Cardinals, but Rivera does not want the team to think the Giants will be a "cake walk."
"Just because we have one win and they have none does not mean a thing," he said. "This is a divisional game. We're going to their place. I expect and anticipate for them to come out and play hard just like they've done. They've got a lot of good quality skill players."