The setting for Robert Griffin III's introduction to NFC East play couldn't be any bigger - on the road against the defending Super Bowl champions.
Griffin's Washington Redskins actually swept two meetings from the New York Giants without him last year, and the electrifying rookie will play his first division game in this rivalry Sunday.
Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora jokingly referred to Griffin as 'Bob Griffin' in the offseason because he believed the much-hyped rookie needed to earn his nickname of 'RG3.'
After Griffin threw for 182 yards and one score and ran for 138 and two more in last Sunday's 38-26 win over Minnesota, Umenyiora was singing a different tune.
"We're going to have our work cut out for us," Umenyiora said. "I actually stopped by the facility and saw some tape of him and I was just like, 'Wow, this guy's an amazing talent.' It's going to be a big test for us to keep him under control."
Griffin, who ran for a 76-yard touchdown that helped clinch the win over the Vikings, said he didn't take Umenyiora's words seriously.
"Osi is a guy that has proven himself in this league," Griffin said. "He's a sack-master; he's done a lot of great things over his career. I didn't mind it at all. I got where he was coming from."
Griffin ranks 15th among all players with 379 rushing yards to top all quarterbacks, and his six touchdowns on the ground are second to Houston's Arian Foster. While his running prowess hasn't been too surprising, Griffin also leads the NFL in completion percentage at 70.2.
"He picks things up very quickly, he's very sharp, he's very attentive, he works extremely hard to get the offense down, he prepares extremely well," coach Mike Shanahan said. "He has picked it up a lot faster than I thought he would or thought he could."
New York (4-2) is one game ahead of Washington (3-3) and Philadelphia, which is off this week, for the division lead. The Giants are 0-2 in NFC East play and 2-5 in division home games all-time at MetLife Stadium.
"We haven't done very well in the division," coach Tom Coughlin acknowledged. "So, if we're going to do something in the division, we've got to get going."
The Giants' priority will be to slow down a Redskins' running game ranked second in the league at 166.0 yards per game. New York had no problems stopping San Francisco's top-ranked rushing attack in last week's 26-3 victory, limiting the 49ers to a season-low 80 yards on the ground.
New York's pass rush also came alive with a season-high six sacks after producing eight over the first five contests. Now those rushers will have to try to chase down Griffin.
"Against a team like this, an offense like this, you have to be very focused on our keys, everybody has to be on the same page," Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said.
These teams are tied for third in the league with 178 points, with the Giants third in the NFL at 421.0 yards per game and the Redskins fifth at 408.3.
Eli Manning's 1,772 passing yards are the NFL's third-highest total, but his problems against Washington last year were part of the reason New York dropped both meetings. Manning had no touchdowns and four interceptions in those games - two of three all season in which he failed to throw a touchdown.
"They play good defense, they had a good scheme versus us last year, even prior to that," Manning said. "They do some things a little bit different, which have given us some trouble."
Manning's statement may not be accurate this year since Washington ranks last in the league in pass defense, allowing 328.3 yards per game. Safety Brandon Meriweather will miss his fourth straight game with a knee injury.
New York's offense also figures to be boosted by a revitalized Ahmad Bradshaw, who has 316 yards on the ground over the last two weeks after finishing 2011 with one 100-yard effort. Bradshaw is expected to play despite missing practice Wednesday with a foot injury.
The Giants' defense, meanwhile, will get its first look at Redskins rookie running back Alfred Morris, fourth in the league with 538 yards.
New York's defensive front will be bolstered if Chris Canty makes his season debut after being out due to offseason knee surgery. Fellow tackle Rocky Bernard has missed the last two games with a quadriceps injury.
The Giants had won six straight in this series before last year.
"It's a team that has given us a lot of trouble and it's always a dogfight playing them regardless whether we win or they win," Tuck said. "So we know what kind of game we're expecting."
- Washington Redskins
- Osi Umenyiora
- New York
- Bob Griffin