As they jockey for spots in the playoffs, the New York Giants and Washington Commanders have the unusual assignment of facing each other in Weeks 13 and 15. The first of those meetings comes Sunday in East Rutherford, N.J.
It's a schedule that sets up well for the Commanders. As for the Giants? Not so much.
Making it tougher for New York is what happens in Week 14. While the Giants face the NFC East-leading Philadelphia Eagles, the Commanders have the week off to rest and prepare for the rematch.
It's a difficult slate for New York (7-4) considering the challenge presented by onrushing Washington (7-5), which has won six of its last seven games.
In making their playoff push, the Commanders have relied on a formula similar to that used by the Giants in winning six of their first seven games -- defense, ball control and forcing more turnovers than they commit.
In going 6-1, Washington has a plus-seven turnover margin. In losing four of their first five games, the Commanders' margin was minus-seven.
Helping facilitate the low-risk offense has been the Commanders' increasingly productive running game. Last week in a 19-13 win over Atlanta, rookie Brian Robinson Jr. rushed for 105 yards on 18 carries, the most by a Washington back in a game this year.
The previous week, in a 23-10 win at Houston, Antonio Gibson had 103 yards from scrimmage (72 rushing, 31 receiving).
"Those two guys are the kind of tandem that I talked about when I first got here, wanting to be able to emulate what I've done in the past," Washington coach Ron Rivera said. "I really do think being able to run the ball well helps your entire team."
By contrast, as the Giants have slumped, their running game has become less effective. Over the first nine games, Saquon Barkley had 931 rushing yards (103.4 per game). But in the last two weeks, in losses to Detroit and Dallas, Barkley has gained a combined 61 yards on 26 carries.
Getting Barkley back in the groove won't be easy against a Washington defense that allows 108.4 rushing yards per game, ranking No. 8 in the NFL. The defense might also have another major piece back, pending the return of former No. 2 overall draft choice Chase Young, who has missed 20 games after surgery to repair a torn ACL.
"They're good at the run and the pass," Giants coach Brian Daboll said. "I think having strong fronts, both defense and offensively, is kind of where you want to build your football team, and they certainly have done it."
Daboll hopes that quarterback Daniel Jones can continue his success against the Commanders. In his four seasons, Jones has twice as many wins (four) as a starter against Washington than any other team. His nine touchdown passes against the Commanders are four more than he has against any other team.
The fade of the Giants has corresponded with a spate of injuries. But Daboll was optimistic about getting several players back this week, including a trio off the injured reserve list -- safety Tony Jefferson (foot), guard Ben Bredeson (knee) and linebacker Azeez Ojulari (calf).
Among those held out of practice on Wednesday were wideout Richie James (knee), defensive back Adoree' Jackson (knee) and offensive lineman Josh Ezeudu (neck). Cornerback Cor'Dale Flott (concussion) was one of eight players limited.
Cornerback Benjamin St-Juste (ankle), guard Trai Turner (knee/ankle) and wideout Dax Milne (foot) were non-participants at Washington's Wednesday practice. Young and Gibson were limited.
--Field Level Media