Redskins (4-5) vs.<BR> the Giants (5-4)

The Redskins understand exactly where they are at this point in the season. And it's why there were so many grumpy faces at Redskins Park. After an ugly defeat at Jacksonville, the Redskins realize time is running out heading into Sunday's game at New York.

''It's a must win,'' Redskins guard Tre Johnson said. ''We don't have enough of a cushion to lose any division games at this point. It's a game we should lick our chops for. We can get back in the mix and take a firmer grasp of our destiny. [But] we gave one away last week and it will come back to haunt us.''

Or, as defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson said, ''We can't afford to take any losses at this point. Anytime you lose at this stage, you feel like you're taking away a chance to go to the playoffs.''

The Redskins haven't fared well in the facing-his-old-team department. A number of players had ties to Jacksonville and they lost. Much was made of Jeremiah Trotter facing his old Eagles teammates. That turned out ugly, too.

Now it's Jessie Armstead's turn. Early in the week Armstead said he harbored no bitterness toward the team he played with for nine seasons. A few days later he sounded differently.

''Being a first class organization, like the Giants are, I thought they should have brought me in and talked to me,'' he said, ''regardless if they were going to release me or not. I deserved to be brought in. But they didn't so that's the way they felt. I have moved on. [The media] knew before I did.''

Then he told reporters the Redskins would be at a disadvantage Sunday. Wink, wink.

''You have a guy who is going to be on the field that they told was no good and can't play no more and who is washed up,'' Armstead said. ''We will be playing with 10 guys against their 11.''

Offensive player to watch: Running back Stephen Davis. If he can carry a full load, then the Redskins have a chance for a big day on the ground. New York ranks 24th against the run and a power back like Davis will give them trouble.

And keep an eye on: Receiver Willie Jackson. He's supposed to get more time this week and the Redskins need more from their wideouts in this game. They're matched against three excellent corners and need more than just Rod Gardner to succeed through the air.

Defensive player to watch: Jessie Armstead. Not because he's returning to New York, though that will be interesting. Rather, it's because he must defend rookie tight end Jeremy Shockey. The Giants lack much of a passing game as their receivers are banged up, but Shockey could give Washington fits down the middle, if they're not careful.

And keep an eye on: Linebacker LaVar Arrington. Tiki Barber can hurt teams running or receiving, but Arrington's speed is a good counter for Barber.

Top battle: Redskins RT Jon Jansen vs. Giants DE Michael Strahan. Jansen has fared better against Strahan than anyone else in the division. Before Strahan's conference call with Washington writers, One New York writer said, ''If you're going to ask Strahan about Jansen, make sure it's your last question.'' He doesn't care much for Jansen. And Jansen didn't want to talk about Strahan.

Be careful: Champ Bailey has a tough venue to return punts. The swirling winds of Giants Stadium can make it difficult for seasoned returners, let alone an inexperienced one like Bailey. The Redskins tried to prepare him for this role by having him field punts with the wind in his face.

Be extra careful: Punter Bryan Barker's job is safe for now. But another disastrous day for him might be too much to overcome. One reason he's survived is his ability to hold. So any punter who comes in must excel in that area. Plus Barker is a steady influence on kicker James Tuthill and Redskins special teams coach Mike Stock is loathe to break that up.

How the Redskins can win: By attacking New York on the ground. They can run right at end Kenny Holmes--which lots of teams have done. Middle 'backer Michael Barrow is solid, but the tackles are either inexperienced (Lance Legree) or a bust (Cornelius Griffin). If the Giants walk up a safety to help, then Washington can try one deep. But the Redskins must prove they're willing to run the ball first. Defensively, Washington needs to contain Tiki Barber. With only one proven receiver (Amani Toomer) healthy, the Giants should be easy to stop through the air. Newly-signed Herman Moore might play, but he's not familiar with this offense and will be limited.

Signs of trouble: Good weather conditions. We all know what that means to Steve Spurrier: passing weather. . . . The Redskins can't run the ball. . . . Kerry Collins has time to throw. Say what you want about him, given time he has the arm to pick apart a defense.

Injury update: Redskins guard Brenden Stai is now out for Sunday's game.

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