The New York Giants (4–0) will host the Oakland Raiders (1–3) on Sunday at the Meadowlands in a game New York should win easily.
The Giants are coming off a 27–16 drubbing of Kansas City while Oakland limps in with all sorts of questions surrounding several key positions on the team.
The team’s leading rusher Darren McFadden will be out two to four weeks with a knee injury, and starting left guard Robert Gallery and right offensive tackle Cornell Green are also out.
And if dealing with injuries wasn’t enough, the Raiders must contend with a much larger issue surrounding the abysmal play of starting quarterback JaMarcus Russell.
Russell, the Raiders’ first overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, came out of LSU with much promise, but has had difficulty adjusting to the pro game. He has to be considered a major disappointment thus far in his career.
He owns the worst completion percentage in the NFL with 39.8 percent, and has thrown four interceptions and only one touchdown. Russell also leads the worst offense in the league in passing. The Raiders rank 28th out of 32 teams in the running game.
Considering the Raiders are producing a league-low 208.5 yards per game and have scored a total of nine points in their last two losses, playing on the road against a tough Giants defense that is allowing only 232.2 yards per game is be a nightmare scenario for Oakland.
Facing a fearsome Giants pass rush that sacked Kansas City quarterbacks five times last week, the Raiders will replace Gallery and Green with backups Samson Satele and Erik Pears, neither of who are household names.
The replacements will be going to head-to-head against the likes of Osi Umenyiora, Mathias Kiwanuka, and Justin Tuck.
However despite the apparent advantage, Giants defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan refuses to take Oakland lightly, “They have excellent skill and they try to use it and get down the field throwing the ball. Their running backs have excellent speed too. Anytime they break the line of scrimmage they have the chance to go the distance.”
Sheridan was also confident that his defensive players would do the same, “Our guys take a very professional approach towards the whole thing. Our guys will be wired up, ready to go.”
The Giants could be without Eli Manning who suffered plantar fasciitis (inflammation on the bottom of the heel) in last week’s game against the Chiefs. Manning was hopeful that he’d start in Sunday’s game but only if it doesn’t aggravate his injury.
“I’m not going to do anything that will put myself in harm for making this worse down the road.”
If Eli cannot start, backup quarterback David Carr will get the nod. The last time Carr played significant minutes for New York was last year’s game against the Minnesota Vikings where he completed 8-of-11 passes for 110 yards and one TD.
If called upon, Carr could do reasonably well in Manning’s absence. But against the Raiders, who actually have one of the better secondaries in the league, the Giants may want to work the ground game and limit the amount of times he has to throw.
The Raiders pass defense is ranked 12th in the NFL and is led by one of the best corners in the game in Nnamdi Asomugha. In one of the key match-ups of the game, the Raiders All-Pro cornerback will be assigned the task of covering New York’s Steve Smith, who leads the league with 411 receiving yards and 34 receptions.
Regardless of who starts at quarterback for the Giants, they must respect the athleticism of Asomugha.
Winnable on Paper
For anyone who has watched these two teams, the contrast is staggering. The Giants, also dogged by injuries, are winning despite them and playing with passion and smarts.
The Raiders on the other hand came out of the gates with a lot of intensity, but only four games into the season, they look disinterested and unfocused.
If the Giants can exploit Oakland’s patchwork offensive line and slow down their speedy offense, it may not matter how well Oakland’s defense plays because New York will score points at home whether it’s Manning at the helm or Carr.
Of course, this game could be “the trap” game of the season, but after it’s over the Giants should walk away Sunday at 5–0. After the Raiders, the Giants will face the New Orleans Saints (4–0) who will be well rested, coming off a bye week.