EAST RUTHERFORD — This is a rivalry. Sunday will mark the 167th regular season meeting between the Giants and Redskins, and the current players have embraced the bad blood that has existed between the teams for generations.
But all of the pregame trash talk will be irrelevant once the ball is kicked off at 1 p.m. on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. At that point, it will be all about the matchups. Here are three key matchups to watch on Sunday:
Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. vs. Redskins cornerback Josh Norman
The main event. Everyone has had this rematch circled on their calendars since Norman signed with the Redskins in the offseason.
Beckham and Norman will reignite their heated rivalry on Sunday. Everyone is hoping cooler heads will prevail, which figures to be a challenge when these emotional players square off. But even if the matchup sticks to football, it should still be fascinating to watch.
It’s rare that two of the best in the game go at it, but that will be the case on Sunday based on a report that Norman will shadow Beckham all over the field. Beckham should have gotten the better of Norman in last season’s matchup, but the young Giants receiver let distractions get him off his game.
Beckham said he has learned from that experience. We’ll find out on Sunday if that’s truly the case.
Giants WRs Victor Cruz/Sterling Shepard vs. Redskins cornerbacks
The Giants’ wide receiving corps present a pick your poison challenge to opposing defenses. If the Redskins choose to have Norman shadow Beckham, that will open opportunities for Cruz and Shepard to make plays.
The Redskins have confidence in No. 2 cornerback Bashaud Breeland, but he’s clearly a notch below Norman. Cruz and Shepard have taken advantage of their opportunities in the first two games, combining for 19 catches, 285 yards and two touchdowns while opponents focus on Beckham.
If Norman is going to contain Beckham, he’ll need safety help. That should leave openings in the defense for Cruz and Shepard to exploit.
Giants defensive backs vs. Redskins TE Jordan Reed
Linebackers often match-up with tight ends, but that won’t work against the ultra-athletic Reed. The 6-foot-2, 246-pounder is essentially a big wide receiver, often lining up in the slot. The Giants will need to use defensive backs to try to limit Reed, who had 14 catches for 194 yards in two games against the Giants last season.
The good news for the Giants is they are much better equipped to defend Reed this season. The Giants have the versatility to throw a number of different defensive backs at Reed on Sunday, including 6-foot-2, 193-pound cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who has been playing in the slot extensively this season.
The Redskins have some deep threats on the outside, but limiting Reed is the key to slowing their passing game.