When the schedule was released way back in the off-season, the game between the New York Giants and Oakland Raiders was one that was circled. At the time it was expected that this would be a titanic meeting between two of the most dynamic offenses in the NFL, featuring two of the best young wide receivers.
That was then.
Now it is a meeting between two poor teams with surprisingly bad records. Both have been hit by injury and poor play on all sides of the ball, but the big story of the game was stolen by the Giants. After making the shocking (and roundly criticized) decision to bench 14-year starter Eli Manning, the Giants will likely be relying on their defense if they have any hope of winning — a defense that just saw one of its best players put on the injured reserve earlier in the week.
So, what do the Giants have to look forward to when the Raiders have the ball?
By the numbers
Passing Yards - 237.5 (14th)
Rushing Yards - 91.0 (27th)
Total Yards - 328.5 (19th)
Points - 20.5 (21st)
Passing Yards - 258.2 (29th)
Rushing Yards - 131.7 (31st)
Total Yards - 389.9 (31st)
Points - 24.3 (22nd)
Who are these guys?
When the Raiders’ offense and Giants’ defense take the field, there are going to be a lot of unfamiliar names on the field.
The Raiders will be missing their top two receivers. Michael Crabtree is suspended, while Amari Cooper is dealing with a concussion and ankle injury.
The Giants have had a spate of injuries and placed linebackers Curtis Grant and Dontae Skinner on the IR, as well as cornerbacks Donte Deayon and Janoris Jenkins.
To fill the gaping hole in the roster, the Giants added linebackers Ray-Ray Armstrong and Jeremy Cash, cornerbacks Brandon Dixon and Darryl Morris, and defensive tackle Kyrie Thornton.
The Raiders won’t be without options to replace their two star receivers.
The trio of Seth Roberts, Johnny Holton, and Cordarrelle Patterson picked up the slack against the Denver Broncos, with each with at least two receptions and a combined 151 yards.
The three have solid size, which works against an unsettled Giants’ secondary that will have to play physically to disrupt a Raiders’ offense that features a fast release by Dereck Carr.
Defend the tight end?
The Giants have long struggled to defend tight ends, but in 2017 they took that struggle to new heights. The Giants defense set an embarrassing record by allowing a tight end to score a touchdown in each of their first nine games.
They finally put an end to it against — amazingly — the Kansas City Chiefs and Travis Kelce. Kelce is one of the top tight ends in the league and led the game in receiving (8 receptions, 108 yards), but the Giants kept him out of the endzone. They followed it up a week later by keeping the Washington Redskins’ tight ends out of the endzone as well.
Though the team was missing Jordan Reed, the way Giants’ defense had performed against even backup tight ends throughout the season suggest that Niles Paul and Vernon Davis had to be considered significant threats.
Part of the Giants’ recent success against tight ends has to be the return of safety Landon Collins to his All-Pro form. Collins has racked up 30 tackles in the last two weeks while also playing well in coverage. His play isn’t the only reason, but Collins’ ability to impact all facets of an offensive game plan makes him a major factor.
Contain Beast Mode
It feels like eons ago, but one of the major storylines of the 2017 off-season was the return of Marshawn Lynch to the NFL and his move to play for his home-town Raiders. The addition of Lynch along with what was reckoned to be one of the NFL’s elite offensive lines was supposed to help propel the Raiders on a run to the Super Bowl.
Instead, the offensive line has under-performed and Lynch is averaging just 3.7 yards per carry (123 carries, 457 yards).
But considering his ability to break tackles and have a big run at any time, as well as the Giants’ struggles this season when it comes to securing tackles, whether or not the Giants are able to contain Lynch could be a deciding factor in the game.
The Giants’ defense was stout defending Kareem Hunt, but over the course of the following game surrendered 100 yards on 24 carries to Samaje Perine. The Giants held Perine in check early in the game, but as their offense proved unable to sustain a drive, the defense appeared to run out of gas toward the end of the game. With the Raiders’ receiving corps depleted, they will likely lean on Lynch, and given everything that has gone on with the Giants’ offense this week, the defense shouldn’t expect much help.