OAKLAND, Calif. — A week ago, the Raiders adjusted abruptly.
They lost wide receiver Michael Crabtree and guard Gabe Jackson on the offense’s fifth play to ejections. They were down wide receiver Amari Cooper after a concussion and ankle sprain during the second quarter. In response, the team inserted reserve guard Jon Feliciano and grew more reliant on speedy wide receivers Cordarrelle Patterson and Johnny Holton.
Preparation and execution overcame the adversity.
“I thought our game plan was fantastic,” quarterback Derek Carr said afterward. “Obviously, that showed today because we executed.”
Time to do it again.
Unlike last week’s 21-14 win over the Denver Broncos, the Raiders know in advance they’ll be without Crabtree and Cooper. Offensive coordinator Todd Downing and his staff had a week to prepare a game plan accordingly. It will be unveiled Sunday against a New York Giants roster far more hobbled than theirs.
“We might change some formations so we get different players in different spots and highlight some skill sets,” Downing said. “Try to help the young guys by asking them to do things they’re more comfortable with. But other than that, we expect it to be a ‘next man up’ type of mentality.”
The Raiders are focused on themselves. The stakes are clear.
A win effectively keeps them at pace in the AFC West. At 5-6 beside the Los Angeles Chargers, Oakland sits one game behind the Chiefs, whom it will face Dec. 10 in Kansas City. Crabtree will return for that pivotal game. It’s unclear if Cooper, seen walking gingerly in the locker room in recent days, can do the same.
“We learned a lot from those guys,” Holton said. “We’re just going to go out there and put it all out on the line.”
The Raiders will feature Seth Roberts, Patterson and Holton at wide receiver, looking to rely on their receiver depth Sunday against a team familiar with the challenge.
New York wide receivers Odell Beckham (ankle) and Brandon Marshall (ankle) were placed on injured reserve in October. Wide receiver Sterling Shepherd will return Sunday from a two-game absence to migraines. Quarterback Geno Smith will look to rely on him and rookie tight end Evan Engram.
The Giants’ defense is short-handed, too. Tackle Damon Harrison (elbow) hasn’t practiced all week and is listed as questionable. Starting linebacker Jonathan Casillas (neck/wrist) is out. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins (ankle) was placed on injured reserve Wednesday.
Oakland has three players on season-ending injured reserve.
New York has 18.
Despite losing some pieces, the Raiders still figure to match up. The Giants have allowed 131.7 rushing yards per game in 2017, second-most in the NFL. Game flow, given the team’s record, helps account for that. But the unit still has ceded 4.3 yards per carry, which is eighth-worst. Being without Harrison on Sunday wouldn’t help.
Also, their defense has struggled against tight ends, allowing a touchdown in nine of 11 games. Jared Cook should draw extra attention, but given the speed of Patterson and Holton, there should be big-play opportunities.
Things could be worse.
“Jared is a guy that we’ve played at receiver,” Carr said. “We’ve played him at tight end. We’ve played him at different spots in the wing and things like that. It’s fantastic because you need to have weapons. … I know that on the team we’re playing, they’ve lost a lot of weapons. It’s hard just trying to go about your business. So when you have a lot of weapons, it’s nice that when injuries or a suspension or anything like that happens, we can still play football and move forward.”
Down Cooper and Crabtree, the Raiders outlasted a stingy Broncos defense a week ago.
Those absences weren’t an excuse then. They certainly won’t be now.
Giants: Out: LB Jonathan Casillas (neck, wrist). Doubtful: G Justin Pugh (back). Questionable: CB Eli Apple (hip), DT Damon Harrison (elbow). Raiders: Out: WR Amari Cooper (concussion, ankle). Questionable: CB David Amerson (foot), G Gabe Jackson (ankle), LB Cory James (knee), WR Cordarrelle Patterson (hip).