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Commanders stats of the week: Can Sam Howell beat the Giants’ blitzes?

This is by far the easiest of the seven games remaining on the Washington Commanders’ schedule. Washington is an 8.5-point favorite at home against the New York Giants. The second-most favorable projected spread on the remaining schedule, according to Inpredictable.com, a sports betting analysis website, is Week 16 at the New York Jets, when Washington is forecast as a one-point favorite (barring the potential return of quarterback Aaron Rodgers).

It’s been a hellish season for the Giants. Injuries have devastated the team, especially the offensive line and quarterback. Daniel Jones battled a neck injury before tearing his ACL, and backup Tyrod Taylor suffered a rib cage injury that landed him on injured reserve. The Giants are expected to start undrafted rookie free agent Tommy DeVito, a New Jersey native who’s arguably most famous for living at home with his parents.

The Giants stunned the Commanders, 14-7, the last time they played, in Week 7 at the Meadowlands. If Washington is going to have any hope of making an outside push for the postseason, it must start by winning Sunday.

Let’s dig into the stats to get to know the Giants.

Everyone knows Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale likes to blitz. In Week 7, Martindale blitzed quarterback Sam Howell on 29 of his 49 dropbacks (59.2 percent) — the highest rate any Washington quarterback had been blitzed in the past decade — and the offense looked unprepared. The Commanders’ inability to handle the blitz was the main reason they lost.

Two weeks later, in a win over New England, Howell and the reshuffled offensive line showed great progress against pressure. Howell’s presnap recognition and audibles were critical to the offense’s success, especially against cover-zero blitzes, one of which Howell beat for a 33-yard touchdown to receiver Jahan Dotson.

The question now is whether Martindale will keep blitzing despite Howell’s progress. If he does, can Howell keep beating it consistently? Who blinks first?

Last week, Dallas destroyed New York, 49-17, in DeVito’s debut. Dallas gained 640 yards to New York’s 172, the largest difference in total yardage between two teams in a game in 44 years, according to the NFL.

Commanders Coach Ron Rivera was asked what he thought of the Giants’ offense with DeVito.

“They’re all professionals,” he said. “They’re going to play as hard as they can and do everything they can to win. We’re going to try and counter all that by coming out and playing the best we can and try to win.”

Rivera has struggled with the Giants as Washington’s coach. His record against them, 2-4-1, is good for a .357 winning percentage, the second lowest of any team he’s faced at least three times (behind Seattle, .333).

The most recent loss still stings, several players said.

“A lot of guys are motivated by that loss because we feel like we should’ve won that game,” running back Brian Robinson Jr. said. “I think a lot of guys are really upset about it, and so am I. I haven’t won a game against New York yet. I’m eager to beat them. It’s a critical game for us and what we’re trying to accomplish for our season. So I think guys are fired up about that.”


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