The Raiders caught a break when they found out Geno Smith would start over two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning. Smith struggled in his 30 careers starts, but his best games have been against the Raiders, beating the Silver and Black twice. Derek Carr adjusted last week when he lost his top two wideouts in the first half. He’ll have to do it again against the Giants.
The Giants and Raiders rank near the bottom in running the ball. Marshawn Lynch and the Raiders are ranked 27th at 91.0 yards per game. The New York committee of Orleans Darkwa, Shane Vereen, Wayne Gallman and Paul Perkins sits at 26th with 91.3 yards per game.
This one is a little tricky. All the top wideouts are either injured or suspended. Amari Cooper is out with multiple injuries. Michael Crabtree is suspended for one game. Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall have been sidelined most of the season for New York. But the Giants are expecting to get Sterling Shepard back for Sunday’s game.
New York’s line has struggled to protect Manning and hasn’t done much better with run blocking. The Raiders’ offensive line hasn’t been as good as last season, but has provided holes for Lynch and given Carr time to operate.
The Giants’ talented defensive line has produced only 20 sacks, one more than the Raiders. Damon Harrison (elbow) is questionable to play, but the Giants still have Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon. Khalil Mack is a one-man band on the Raiders’ front line.
Like the Raiders, the Giants have been short-handed at linebacker most of the season. The Raiders continue to get productive play from NaVorro Bowman since he joined the team five games ago. Bowman recorded the Raiders’ first interceptions of the season last week against the Broncos.
The Raiders won’t have to worry about the Giants’ top cornerback, Janoris Jenkins, who was placed on injured reserve this past week. Cornerback Eli Apple will have to step up, and Landon Collins is one of the better safeties in the league. The Raiders could get cornerback David Amerson (foot) back.
The trio of kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson, punter Marquette King and kicker Giorgio Tavecchio give the Raiders one of the best special teams in the league. The Giants are led by Vereen, who takes care of kickoff and punt return duties.
Smith has fared well against the Raiders, but the Silver and Black has momentum on its side. The Raiders’ defense can add to last week’s standout performance by shutting down Smith and leading the Raiders to a .500 record.
Micah Roberts (Sportsline.com): Raiders 21-9 — Manning was benched and the Smith era begins for the Giants and soon to be fired coach Ben McAdoo. The Raiders are a consensus 8-point favorite and will be without both starting wide receivers — Cooper and Crabtree — and Patterson is questionable with an injured hip. An angle to take seriously is how the divide in the Giants’ locker room might play out. Do some quit? Sure, the Giants scored only 15.6 points per game behind Manning, but there’s a classier way to handle the demotion with a franchise great. I wouldn’t expect either offense to be too good, so the best bet might be the under.