The New York Giants (2-6) are off the schneid, winners of two in a row and fully rested and prepared to return to action after a bye week. But the Giants are just 2-6 following a bye week under Tom Coughlin. Fortunately for them, they'll play Sunday at MetLife Stadium against a West Coast team that was just destroyed by Nick Foles.
Speaking of the Oakland Raiders (3-5), heading East doesn't sound too great for a squad that's 0-3 on the road this season. The Raiders will likely be without running back Darren McFadden, and did I mention they allowed Foles to throw seven touchdowns against them just a week ago?
The Giants look to maintain their momentum while the Raiders look to get on track. Here are five things we're keying on this Sunday:
Andre Brown's return to action
Originally supposed to be the thunder to David Wilson's lighting, Brown was injured in the final pre-season game and subsequently placed on short-term IR. On Thursday, Wilson was placed on IR and Brown was activated, and Sunday will mark the powerful back's return to action.
This week, he'll have a chance to shake off the rust against the league's sixth-ranked rush defense in Oakland, which is allowing only 95 yards per game on the ground. Brown and Peyton Hillis will split backfield duties, and Michael Cox may have a chance to see some action as well. The Giants will need to find some sort of consistency on the ground if they plan to exploit the Raiders' struggling pass defense.
Giants Offensive Line vs. Raiders Front Seven
Eli Manning has been sacked 12 more times through eight games this season than he was in 2012. The Raiders have tallied 23 sacks this season, good for 13th in the NFL, while the Giants have allowed 19 sacks but just three in their past two victories.
Much of the line's recent success has been due to the steady progress of rookie tackle Justin Pugh, who analyst Ross Tucker praised as being the best of his class. The offense is taking more measures to help protect Manning, which has led to more offensive success in recent weeks. That'll be a must against Oakland, which early on this season displayed one of the more aggressive front sevens in the league.
Jason Pierre-Paul in mid-season form?
The Giants' defense has totaled just 10 sacks this season, as compared to the 21 they had at this point a season ago. They've tallied three against Josh Freeman and Nick Foles in their past two wins.
According to defensive line coach Robert Nunn, JPP needs one breakout game to regain his form. Pierre-Paul estimated he's at about 90 percent following offseason back surgery, but is 90 percent good enough against Oakland?
The Raiders' patchwork offensive line has allowed 32 sacks this season, second only the Miami Dolphins. Last week the Eagles got to Terrelle Pryor three times, and again that'll be the key for the G-Men looking to revitalize their pass rush.
Color me Mr. Obvious, but the Giants' recent success has coincided with their recent influx of forced turnovers. The team has forced six turnovers in the past two games after forcing only seven through the first six.
In his first season as a starter, Pryor has thrown nine interceptions, seven in the last three contests. If both teams are streaking, it seems as if the Giants will be able to force Pryor into some game-changing mistakes.
Eli Manning vs. the Oakland secondary
Was Foles' seven-touchdown performance an aberration or will Manning be able to have similar success against the Oakland secondary?
The Raiders rank 25th in the league in terms of pass defense, allowing 263 yards per game through the air. Since their bye week, the Raiders have allowed 409 yards passing per game.
Victor Cruz, who is dealing with a neck issue, is expected to play. Along with Rueben Randle, Hakeem Nicks and former Raiders tight end Brandon Myers, the Giants seemingly have a plethora of mismatches. Should Manning have enough protection, the Giants' passing game should be in full effect on Sunday.
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