Way back in September, I called the Oakland Raiders week 2 game against the New York Jets a trap game, rationalizing that the Raiders could be caught looking ahead to a primetime matchup with the Washington Redskins. The opposite ended up happening; the Raiders handled the Jets easily but got completely smothered by the Redskins.
In any case, the same situation has popped back up. The Raiders have what looks to be an easy game versus the New York Giants on Sunday ahead of a crucial AFC West battle with the Kansas City Chiefs next week. Given that the Raiders are coming off a huge win over the Denver Broncos and the Giants relative uselessness this season, it’d be easy to overlook them. After all, the G-men have just two wins in 2017.
Who did they come against? The Broncos and Chiefs. Interesting.
Sure, those two teams were caught by surprise to an extent, but don’t downplay the talent that the Giants have on defense. Yes, they’re second-to-last in the league against the pass and rush, and in total defense. But with the right gameplan to utilize guys like Damon Harrison, who’s having a career year, and other skilled players like Jason Pierre-Paul, Olivier Vernon and Landon Collins, the Giants are as capable as the top defenses in the NFL.
The Raiders come into this game with a slightly depleted group of receivers, at least for one week. Michael Crabtree is suspended and Amari Cooper will be sidelined with a concussion and a sprained ankle. Ouch. The Giants just lost top corner Janoris Jenkins for the year to injury, but the Raiders might have to resort to targeting an underwhelming group of linebackers with Jared Cook to be effective in the passing game.
In regards to the ground attack, Marshawn Lynch has had a nice stretch of games, and that could continue versus the Giants. “Snacks” Harrison has been the only consistent run stuffer of the unit.
While the Giants have pieces on defense that can slow the Raiders down, the same can’t be said for their offense. They mercifully decided to sit Eli Manning for the rest of the season, so they’ll be going with a rotation of Geno Smith and Davis Webb at quarterback. The latter is a rookie getting his first action in the NFL, and the Raiders completely embarrassed the former last season when he was with the Jets.
Considering that the Raiders defense shut down Paxton Lynch last Sunday, they shouldn’t have any problems against a weak Giants team that’s been riddled by injury. One threat they have to address is rookie tight end Evan Engram, who’s the type of player that has given the Raiders secondary headaches in the past.
As mentioned earlier, Cooper will be out with multiple injuries this Sunday. The Raiders have four questionable players who all had limited time during practice this week: is wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (hip), guard Gabe Jackson (ankle), linebacker Cory James and cornerback David Amerson (foot). For the Giants, linebacker Jonathan Casillas (neck/wrist) is out, guard Justin Pugh (back) is doubtful, and Harrison (elbow) is questionable.
The Raiders are still alive in the AFC playoff hunt, and next week’s game against the Chiefs will be monumental in how the rest of their season will pan out. However, taking it easy with the Giants is too dangerous. The Silver and Black need to continue to take care of business if they want to stand any prayer of getting to the postseason.