The New York Giants travel to face the Las Vegas Raiders this Sunday. It has been and continues to be a news-filled week for both teams. How will the changes in Las Vegas affect Sunday’s game? We ask Matt Holder of SB Nation’s Silver and Black Pride that and more in this week’s ‘5 questions’ segment.
Ed: What are your thoughts on the firings of coach Josh McDaniels and GM Dave Ziegler?
Matt: It had to happen.
Last season was bad enough as the Raiders went from a playoff team the year before to 6-11 during McDaniel’s and Ziegler’s first season running the show. Talent wasn’t the problem as Josh Jacobs was the rushing champ and Davante Adams led the league in receiving touchdowns and was toward the top of the list for yards, too. They tried to make Derek Carr the scapegoat, but McDaniels was clearly the bigger problem as the so-called “offensive genius” couldn’t score more than 20 points this season despite having his hand-picked quarterback. Not to mention Jacobs and Adams as well.
Between not picking up Jacobs’ fifth-year option, signing Chandler Jones and swapping out Carr for Garoppolo, and several other transactions in between, pretty much every move McDaniels and Ziegler made with the Raiders blew up in their faces. Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the fact the team set an NFL record for blowing double-digit second-half leads last season!
Ed: How do you think former Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce will fare as interim head coach? Can he turn this into a permanent gig?
Matt: I’m happy that Pierce is getting an opportunity to show what he can do as head coach, but he definitely is walking into an adverse situation as most interim head coaches do. As mentioned above, the Raiders’ offense is a mess right now and I’d be surprised if a linebackers coach will make that any better. Granted, Pierce has already won over the fanbase and might be onto something by naming Aidan O’Connell the starting quarterback, but I’m not holding my breath that a rookie fourth-round pick will save the team’s season. It will probably take a lot for Pierce to earn the permanent gig as Mark Davis has already begun cleaning house by firing offensive coordinator Mick Lombardi as well, and I think that will continue into the offseason.
Ed: If you could take one player off the Giants’ roster and put him into the Raiders’ starting lineup, who would it be? Why?
Matt: Easy, Dexter Lawrence. Defensive tackle is one of Las Vegas’ weakest position groups and Lawrence has been one of the best players at the position over the last two years. In fact, I was kind of hoping he wouldn’t get a contract extension this offseason as he would have been one of my top free-agent targets for the Raiders this March. Lawrence’s ability to impact the running and passing games would make him the most talented defensive tackle on the Silver and Black’s roster by far and would be a great compliment for Maxx Crosby.
Ed: You are game-planning against the Raiders. How do you disrupt their offense? How do you attack their defense?
Matt: How to attack the offense is a bit of a question mark now that O’Connell is starting as he’s only made one regular season start and went in during garbage time against the Bears, so the sample size is small. But I would stack the box and force the rookie to beat me while also dialing up some pressure early in the game to see how he handles it. Ideally, Las Vegas wants to lean on its rushing attack offensively but their offensive line isn’t that good at run-blocking, so that can be taken away by putting another defender close to the line of scrimmage.
Defensively, I’d force the Raiders to tackle in space. Pro Football Focus had them down for 27 missed tackles over the last two weeks and a lot of those have come via screens and/or in the open field. Especially with how the Giants’ offensive line has struggled and with how well Maxx Crosby is playing, getting the ball out of Daniel Jones’ hands quickly and into the perimeter will allow someone like Wan’Dale Robinson to make Las Vegas’ defensive backs, who really struggle to tackle, miss. To me, that’s the best way for New York’s offense to have success this week.
Ed: This is a game between two of the three lowest-scoring offenses in the NFL. DraftKings Sportsbook lists the over/under as 37.5. Which would you take?
Matt: I’ve got to ride the wave and go with the under. There’s so much uncertainty with both offenses right now, DraftKings could put any number as the total and I’d probably still take the under. I’m expecting a real barn-burner where the final score is something along the lines of 10-7 or 7-6. I also wouldn’t rule out a 3-2 game!
— My answers to Matt’s questions can be found at Silver and Black Pride.