With five games to go and one game out of the division lead and wild card race, every game left on the Raiders schedule is big. The playoff push starts this weekend, as the 2-9 New York Giants travel to Oakland in a NFC/AFC battle.
This is not the same Giants team that entered the season. Head Coach Ben McAdoo was coming off a successful 11-5 season and returning the majority of their stars in 2017. Unfortunately, they have lost some key plays since the start of the season. Gone are Odell Beckham, Brandon Marshall, and Janoris Jenkins with season ending injuries. On top of that, the Giants could be without offensive lineman Justin Pugh (back) and defensive tackle Damon Harrison (elbow). To make matters worse, McAdoo will go with backup quarterback Geno Smith instead of two-time Super Bowl Champion, Eli Manning.
Therefore, the Raiders have a great opportunity to get back to .500 and stay within striking distance of the Chiefs, Ravens, and Bills. In order to win this matchup against the Giants, Head Coach Jack Del Rio and the Raiders will need to follow these three keys.
Control the Line of Scrimmage
With Michael Crabtree (suspension) and Amari Cooper (concussion, ankle) out for this game, Derek Carr will be without his top two pass catchers this season. As a result, Offensive Coordinator Todd Downing could elect to win this game through the ground. That starts upfront with the talented offensive line of the Raiders. Donald Penn will be in charge of containing defensive star Jason Pierre-Paul, which will be the matchup of the night. If Penn, including Rodney Hudson and Kelechi Osemele, can keep their players in front of them and allow Marshawn Lynch to hit the new level of defenders, the Raiders can take the will from the Giants in the trenches.
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Utilize the Quick Pass
As mentioned above, the Raiders will be shorthanded at the wide receiver position. Cordarrelle Patterson and Seth Roberts both move to the starting lineup this weekend. The best way to ease these guys into the game plan and also set up the deep pass, is by throwing the quick pass and running the wide outs on short crossing patterns. This will put a ton of pressure on Giants corner Eli Apple to stay with either Roberts or Patterson on these routes. Chances are these playmakers will win the majority of those battles.
Keep the Pressure On
Last week, versus Paxton Lynch, new Defensive Coordinator John Pagano led the unit to their most productive performance this season. They were able to set a season high in sacks (five) and finally recorded their first interception of the season. Pagano was able to pressure Lynch and never allowed the young quarterback to get any rhythm going. This is the blueprint Pagano needs to attack Geno Smith. Smith has not played in a complete game since 2015, a 34-20 loss to the Raiders, so the former Jet could be rusty in Oakland. Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin should pin their ears back and get after Smith in this one. If they repeat the sack and interception totals from last week, they should win this game.
Since the Giants enter this game depleted , the Raiders should deliver a solid performance in the Bay. If Oakland can accomplish these three keys, a victory will sure follow.