The Giants are coming off their bye week still hanging by a thread.
The good news is twofold — the team is healthy, and no one in the NFC East is running away with this thing.
The bad news is the Giants have dug themselves a very deep hole. Eight games are left and they have to win at least six of them, which is no small task.
The Raiders are coming off a demolition by the Eagles at home. Now they are going on the road where they haven’t won. Their defense looked terrible last week, especially the secondary. Their offense has more players, but they’re a bit banged up and very young across the board.
Giants on Offense
The Raiders have a no-name defense that had been playing well right up until last week, when the wheels fell off. It’s hard to tell what defense will show up. The Giants have to be prepared for a team that will want to wash the taste of that embarrassing loss out of their collective mouths.
Worrying about the Raiders mindset however is no way to approach this game. The Giants have to worry about themselves first. They have to start dictating terms. They have to run the ball, and protect the ball. If the offense can play mistake-free, this is a very winnable game.
We’re still not sold on the offensive line. More than anything, we think it’s a talent issue, especially inside where the trio of Boothe-Cordle-Diehl is just not that good. The talent is at tackle, but protecting the middle of the pocket remains an issue.
The coaches are doing everything they can scheme-wise to help the interior pass protection, but it’s the run blocking that has us most concerned. Diehl and Cordle haven’t shown an ability to sustain one-on-one blocks, and Boothe isn’t winning enough battles, either.
If the run game can avoid the negative plays, then the offense has a chance. Those third-and-longs, so prevalent this year, are just too difficult to overcome.
Peyton Hillis has given the offense solid play, while Andre Brown will return this week to add size, experience and a little speed to the backfield. The offense can finally put NFL size and talent at running back on the field, which wasn’t the case earlier.
If Eli Manning has even a semblance of a running game, he can make the Raiders pay. Getting Hakeem Nicks back to his big-play past would be huge for all concerned, while re-discovering the talents of Rueben Randle needs to happen.
We’re hoping that the coaches stay with the short passing game that has been so effective in the team’s two wins. Patience and ball security must continue to rule the day.
This style should improve time of possession, but the offense’s red zone woes remain a very big problem, which is neither aided nor abetted by the softness of the interior line.
Giants on Defense
Minor leg injuries last week to quarterback Terrelle Pryor and running back Darren McFadden could hinder the Raiders – they are Oakland’s two most explosive players – but again, the Giants should be more concerned with their own approach.
The defense’s health is good. Its two most recent additions, Jon Beason and Will Hill, have really made a difference out there. Also, the defensive tackle unit has shown up every week. If the defensive ends can start stepping up to the plate on the pass rush, then this defense has a chance to shut the Raiders down.
Containing Pryor in the pocket is the defense’s biggest challenge. The Raiders are a multi-formation offense whose best play might be the read option.
Pryor is tough to bring down and he’s fast, but he’s also a rookie. The Giants must force him into making mistakes.
The return to health of Jacquian Williams two weeks ago was a defensive difference-maker. Williams’ ability to take away the tight end can free up the safeties and the nickel back to do their thing.
Antrel Rolle’s more visible play has coincided with the increased playing time of both Williams and Hill. The two youngsters are the defense’s best athletes. Their speed has allowed Rolle to get more involved, and he’s liking it.
We’re interested to see how Justin Tuck attacks ex-Giant Matt McCants, if McCants (toe) plays. It’s a matchup that the old Tuck would win hands down. We saw more flashes two weeks ago from Tuck, who needs to continue this resurgence.
Damontre Moore is someone we’d like to see sprinkled into the defensive end rotation a bit more. While you don’t want to mess with what’s working out there, but Moore on passing downs is as intriguing as it gets. The kid has too much talent to keep on the sidelines.
Giants on Specials
The Giants special teams should be much better than how they’ve performed. There’s more than enough talent out there — Hill, Williams, Moore, Allen Bradford, Ryan Mundy, and Spencer Paysinger should be more than enough to handle any situation. Discipline however is a recurring problem that needs to be fixed.
The Raiders have a very good kicking game, but their return game has been just as mediocre as the Giants’ have. Hopefully the coaches give rookie Charles James a chance to field a punt or two, as Rueben Randle just doesn’t bring anything to that aspect of the game.
We’re still waiting on Hill to get his first punt block. He’s come close on several occasions, so it could just be a matter of time.
We are always wary of any team coming off of a lopsided loss because that never sits well with any group of athletes. We doubt that the Raiders will go down without a fight.
Playing mistake-free football has to be the Giants’ focus this week. Produce a clean effort and they should win this game handily. However, winning rarely comes easy for this group.