By Michael Stewart
Introduction: The 2-9 Giants travel on the road to face the 5-6 Oakland Raiders this Sunday. Despite the Raiders having three more wins than the Giants, their respective team stats are very similar with the exception to the offensive points per game; where the Raiders (20.5) have scored an average of nearly five more points per game than the Giants (15.6). The Raiders have a team that is better than their record indicates with quarterback Derek Carr (2,444 yards with 16 touchdowns and 8 interceptions), running back Marshawn Lynch 457 yards with 5 touchdowns and tight end Jared Cook (536 yards on 42 receptions and 1 touchdown). The Raiders will be without wide receivers Amari Cooper (injury) and Michael Crabtree (suspension). Currently; the odd makers have the Raiders winning this game with a 64.9% chance and that could increase before game time. The Giants offense couldn’t generate anything against the Redskins, so Head Coach Ben McAdoo has decided to bench Eli Manning in favor of Geno Smith. This decision by McAdoo has sent shock waves throughout the NFL and with good reason. Does McAdoo and the rest of the Giants organization really believe that Geno Smith is the answer for the Giants at the quarterback position moving forward; when he failed with the Jets? Manning has struggled this season, but how many quarterbacks do you know that could perform well without an offensive line, without their best wide receiver and without a running game. This move by McAdoo will have a domino effect in the off season, especially if McAdoo remains the Head Coach. Both defenses are surrendering 23+ points per game and both defenses are giving up nearly the same yardage per game.
Top 3 Matchups:
- Landon Collins-vs-Jared Cook: With Michael Crabtree suspended for this game; Cook becomes the primary target for Carr in the passing game. Collins will be very physical with Cook and will try to make it difficult for Cook to create separation for big gains.
- Giant’s running game-vs-Raiders running game: Both teams running attack ranks near the bottom in the NFL with the Giants averaging 91.3 yards per game and the Raiders averaging 91.0 yards per game. Neither team can afford to have their running game be a non-factor. Whichever team runs for more yards and can keep the other team off balance has a good chance to win this game.
- Turnovers: The Raiders are a -9 currently; which is amazing that their record is only 5-6 and not worse. The Giants are a 0 in the turnover department; which is also amazing that their record is so bad at 2-9. This could give the Giants a tremendous edge in this game; and if they can create turnovers; which could lead to scoring chances; they might have steal a win on the road.
- Special Teams: Once again, special teams could become a major factor in the outcome of this game as both offenses could struggle to score some points. Raider’s punter Marquette King has twenty-two punts inside the 20 yard line and is averaging 49.1 yards per punt. Kicker Giorgio Tavecchio is 12 for 15 in field goal attempts with 3 beyond 50 yards. The Giants punter Brad Wing is averaging 43.8 yards per punt with 11 inside the 20 yard line. Aldrick Rosas is 13 for 18 in field goal attempts and has struggle between the 40-49 yard range (4 for 8).
What to look for: Both teams will be missing key players on both sides of the ball, so I expect that each team will feel the other team out early and then exploit any weaknesses as the game progresses. If Carr is without his two best receivers, it could hinder him from stretching out the field and rely more on seam passes to Jared Cook. The Giants will also struggle to stretch the field and look for Geno Smith to be mobile and use a lot of rollouts and play action passes to rookie tight end Evan Engram and wide receiver Sterling Shepard as his primary targets. The Giants and Raiders will lean on their defenses heavily to dictate this game and to create turnovers.
Final Score Summary: This has all the makings of a low scoring game with both teams struggling on offense. Field position could play a major role in the outcome of this game as well as field goals made. Despite the Raiders under-achieving this season, their season is not even close to the mess the Giants are experiencing this season. Look for the game to be fairly close with the Raiders eventually pulling away and getting a much needed home win to stay in the playoff hunt.