The Oakland Raiders (3-5) fell completely on their faces last week, both figuratively and literally in DJ Hayden’s case, against the high-powered Philadelphia offense. The Raiders focused most of their efforts on containing the Eagles’ run game, challenging Nick Foles and the passing offense to beat them…which obviously didn’t work the way that they intended. Instead of setting themselves up to potentially compete for the sixth playoff spot, the team became the second team this season to give up seven passing touchdowns in a game and losing any ounce of national respect. Now, the team heads across country to take on a New York Giants (2-6) team fresh off of its bye and consecutive wins.
The Giants are heavily favored in this game, but perhaps that is a blessing for Oakland, as the team always seems to play better whenever they aren’t expected to play well. The team hasn’t had much success in 10 am kickoff times lately, having lost their last eleven games on the East Coast, but this should still be a very solid game between two very different teams. To vary it up a little bit from my previous previews, I’ve decided to really, really in-depth. Unfortunately, this also meant that the article was way too much to read in one sitting, so I’m breaking it up here. Let’s start by analyzing what this game should look like when Eli and the Giants have the ball.
I have written previously about how defensive coordinator Tarver’s scheme is heavily dependent on getting pressure in order to succeed, and the Eagles showed exactly what happens when the pressure doesn’t get there. Oakland, clearly unprepared for Chip Kelly’s fast-paced Philadelphia Ducks offense, was able to get just one sack on Nick Foles when the game was well out of hand and allowed the young quarterback to absolutely decimate them through the air. Lamaar Houston has been very steady this season and his new contract seems all but inevitable, but there has to be another pass rusher to complement him.
Rookie OLB Sio Moore has shown glimpses, especially against Ben Roethlisberger, but the Raiders simply cannot be as content with letting the quarterback complete the ball as they were against Philadelphia. In previous weeks, the pressure made this less of an issue, but the weakness is pretty glaring and needs to be fixed. This will be even more important this week with the absence of DJ Hayden, who will be missing the game with an injury sustained during practice. He will be replaced by Philip Adams, one of the team’s starting corners in 2012 that has shown glimpses of wonderful play in his brief career.
After the Philadelphia disaster, the Raiders plummeted to the league depths in just about every passing statistic. Oakland now has allowed a 68.7% completion percentage (worst in the league), 7.9 yards per attempt (28th), 17 passing TD’s (t-27th), 263.0 yards per game (25th) and a passer rating of 105.0 (31st). There isn’t much defending these numbers, as the Raiders definitely let the Eagles move the ball much easier than anticipated. I did notice an abnormal amount of falling in the Raiders’ secondary on Sunday, however, as did Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning:
Let’s face it, the undefeated Chiefs had 216 yards of total offense against the Raiders. So yeah, you’ve had two teams, the Broncos and the Eagles, who’ve both scored a lot of points against them and the way we look at it is that the Eagles just had one of those days — guys falling down in coverage … DeSean Jackson runs the post route, he’s well covered, the ball falls in his hands … So those things just happen and were prevalent on that particular day … it really was a kind of shake-your-head kind of a deal.
I just kind of have eliminated that game from my preparation … Philadelphia caught every break and for Oakland, everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong.
It will be very interesting to see these offensive adjustments by the Giants. The Giants have found themselves in a disappointing position after starting the season 0-6, but their offense has yet to take off this season, even after a two-game winning streak that is somehow putting them into contention for the NFC East. While most analysts are presumably expecting this to change against the Raiders after the team’s bye, the Giants statistically don’t seem poised to pounce on the opportunity much more than any other team in the league.
Eli Manning is 13th in the league in passing yards and hasn’t thrown an interception in the team’s two-game winning streak, and Victor Cruz has been a definite bright spot with 677 yards and four TD’s, and it will definitely be a challenge for the Raiders to contain a receiver that is arguably more dynamic than any that they faced last week. However, they have just two touchdowns in the past two weeks compared to an astonishing seven field goals. This suggests that the team is able to move the ball well, but has seemed to have trouble actually scoring, which could be due to a struggling running game.
The Giants have had trouble running the ball in recent years, but this has been even more evident this season. The team averages just 69.9 rushing yards per game (30th in the league), led by Brandon Jacobs (who is questionable for Sunday), David Wilson (who got sent to IR this week), and Peyton Hillis. Jacobs and Hillis are decent power runners, but they don’t seem to be much more than that; the longest run of the season between the two of them is a 16-yard gallop by Jacobs, and the two have earned an average yards per carry of 3.5 for Jacobs and 2.8 for Hillis. Neither has earned enough carries to qualify for statistics, but these marks would be good for 37th and 46th, respectively.
Fortunately for Giants fans, Andre Brown is suiting up after suffering an injury of his left leg late in the preseason. Brown was a strong runner for the Giants in early 2012, rushing for 184 yards and 3 TD’s in games against the Buccaneers and Panthers. He was then pushed into a timeshare role before injuring his left leg in the 38-10 blowout over the Packers last year. He was expected to be in a timeshare role with Wilson before suffering an injury to the same spot of his leg in the preseason, so it will be interesting to see if he can help revitalize the Giants’ rushing attack. I have doubts about his ability to impact this specific game much, however; Coughlin has stated that he will be switching Brown in and out with Hillis to ease him back into game action. This is likely to help Brown regain his confidence and mental abilities, something that his offensive coordinator has admitted he needs to improve:
It looks like he’s physically running pretty well. The things that happened very naturally, right now are not happening very naturally, or as natural as usual, I should say — his reads, his awareness of what’s going on. But you can see he’s a good football player.
No matter who lines up in the backfield, it will likely still be difficult running against the Raiders’ defense. For all of the hubbub made about the Raiders’ pass defense, most don’t seem to know that their run defense has been incredible this season. They rank in the top ten in every major statistic: yards per attempt (3.8, 8th), yards per game (94.6, 6th), 20+ yard runs (only one on the season, tied for best in the league), and first downs by runs (45, tied for 9th with the Texans and Chiefs). To the delight of Raiders fans, these statistics have actually been representative of how the Raiders have played so far.
Even the most casual fan can tell that the team made it a point of emphasis to stop being gashed for 70-yard runs every week, and their play through the first half of the season has been a remarkable turnaround from years past. The Raiders hadn’t allowed a twenty yard run until last week, where Bryce Brown made a good play for a 37-yard run. The defensive line and linebacking groups, although not consistently great pass rushers, are full of young and underappreciated talent. This talent has really come together to make a solid defense, and it will be exciting to see that in action again on Sunday.
Stay tuned for the write-up of the Raiders’ offense vs. the Giants defense!