The Raiders have lost 11 or more games each of the past six seasons - an NFL record. This year they could be on their way to a seventh. After they leave New Jersey, their schedule is a daunting one that includes: the rest of the NFC East, the Jets, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Denver and Baltimore. In their current state, the Raiders would be lucky to win two of those games. They are ranked 32nd - last - in the NFL in total offense.
The Giants (4-0) are 26-10 in the regular season since 2007 (11-6 at home, 15-4 on the road). Their defense is ranked first overall in the league and they are #1 against the pass. WR Steve Smith is statistically the NFL's top receiver. RBs Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw rank third and sixth respectively in rushing in the NFC.
When the Giants have the ball.........
The big question is whether or not QB Eli Manning (heel) will play. If he can't, it will be the first game he has not started since mid-2004, a mere 82 games ago. David Carr, an 8-year veteran with 79 NFL starts on his pelt, will get the start if Eli sits. If Eli can play, he will mostly hand off and throw only out of necessity.
The Giants have had some difficulty establishing the run, and Oakland has a respectable defensive line rotation, so this may get interesting. Last week against Houston, the defensive line had a great game statistically , led by DT Tommy Kelly with 13 tackles. Don't forget, the Raiders have former New England Pro-Bowler Richard Seymour now, and former Cowboy DE Greg Ellis, who has four sacks.
That aside, Giants' talented and cohesive offensive line should be able to offset the Raiders in the trenches. The Raiders are 26th against the run and 11th against the pass, so the Giants will look to run first in this game. If by chance they cannot get anything going on the ground, they will need their receivers to outhustle the Raiders' secondary, which is not an easy task.
All-Pro CB Nnamdi Asomugha is an imposing figure with great instincts and cover skills. His counterpart, Chris Johnson (pictured), is also a an excellent cover corner. The Giants' young receivers may find themselves battling to get open. If David Carr is the QB instead of Eli, this also could get interesting.
Those CBs' ability to cover the Giants receivers one-on-one will allow Oakland to stack the box and gang up up Jacobs. The Giants will have to counter with quick passes and screens to try to loosen them up and lure them out of position.
In the red zone, the Giants must begin to execute better, or they will be in a dogfight until the final gun. The possibility of using Bradshaw instead of Jacobs in short yardage situations is becoming more real by the week.
Plus, K Lawrence Tynes can't miss any more easy field goals.
When Oakland has the ball............
This is where the game gets tilted. Raider QB JaMarcus Russell was a project when he was drafted and to this day, he remains one. He has problems throwing outside the hashmarks, which means he keeps his passes in the middle of the field. Teams know this and the results have been ugly. Giants' safeties Michael Johnson and C.C. Brown may be in for a big day.
He is big (6'6", 260) and not very mobile. He has very little touch on his passes and usually aims them too high, leading to incompletions and interceptions. Russell is last among starters in the NFL in completion percentage (39.8), completions (43) and TD passes (1). This week, he'll be rushed even more and won't have the time to improve on those numbers.
Oakland's top rusher, Darren McFadden, will miss the game with a knee injury. His carries will be split by Michael Bush and Justin Fargas. Bush is actually a better scrimmage runner than McFadden, so there's really no drop off.
The starting wideouts are both rookies. Darrius Heyward-Bey, the team's top selection in this year's draft, has only two receptions thus far. Louis Murphy, the other rookie WR, has 11 for 172 yards. He is tied for the team lead with TE Zach Miller.
Miller suffered an concussion last week against Houston. The Raiders are bringing him 3000 miles to NJ in hope that he can play. They should ask the Mets and Ryan Church how that worked out for them....
Yesterday, we outlined the jostling of the Oakland offensive line. There are three players playing out of position. That's not good if you plan on blocking the the Giants' DL.
The oddmakers have made the 15.5 point favorites in this game. The reason? The Giants will convert turnovers into points and win the field position game. They also don't think Oakland will score more than 10 points.
Neither do I.
Giants, 23, Raiders 3