Oakland Raiders at New York Giants: Breaking Down New York's Game Plan

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Oakland Raiders at New York Giants: Breaking Down New York's Game Plan
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

If there ever was a “must-win” situation for the New York Giants, their next game would be it.

With a win over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, the Giants, who are currently 2.5 games out of first place in the division, will manage to keep pace with the Dallas Cowboys, who this weekend face the New Orleans Saints on the road on Sunday night.

Will the Giants win their game vs. Oakland?

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Regardless of what the Cowboys do in that game, if the Giants beat Oakland, they will have a chance to pick up some serious ground in the division over the next two weeks.

Dallas has a bye in Week 11, while the Giants will host the Green Bay Packers, whose starting quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, is expected to miss the game due to a collarbone fracture.

In Week 12, the Giants will close out their current three-game home stand against the Cowboys in a game that could be for first place in the division with five weeks to go in the season.

It is a rosy picture for a Giants team trying to overcome a 0-6 start—if, of course, it takes care of business starting this week.

While New York has admittedly beaten up on two lesser-quality opponents, it should be noted that one of those foes, the Philadelphia Eagles, was the very same team that smacked the Raiders around last week in a 49-20 thumping, proving that anything can happen on any given Sunday.

 

The Series

The Giants and Raiders will meet for the 12th time in the regular season. The Raiders lead the series, 7-4. The last time these two teams met was on Oct. 11, 2009 at Giants Stadium. That day, New York trounced Oakland 44-7 to improve its all-time regular-season home record against the Raiders to 2-3.

Raiders at Giants: The Competitive Edge
Raiders Giants
Quarterback x
Running Backs x
Receivers x
Tight Ends x
Offensive Line x
Defensive Line x
Linebackers x
Defensive Secondary x
Special Teams x
Coaching/Intangibles x

Advantage: Giants

 

Unit Analyses

Quarterback

When it comes to this position, the classic pocket passer—which Eli Manning is—usually is the quarterback who's going to help a team get to where it wants to go.

In this case, if one considers that Terrelle Pryor, for all his athleticism, is still learning how to throw the ball, if the Giants defense can take away the run, it can pretty much render Pryor—who, according to Raiders beat reporter Vic Tafur, showed no signs of being bothered by the knee injury he suffered against the Eagles last week—useless. 

 

Running Backs 

It doesn't sound as though the Raiders will have Darren McFadden (hamstring) this weekend.

Not to worry, though, Raiders fans, as Rashad Jennings and Marcel Reece are averaging 4.7 and 4.4 yards per carry, respectively. However, they haven't gone up against a run defense that's been as stout as the Giants, who have allowed 102.2 rushing yards per game (ninth in the NFL). 

Back to the Giants' running game: The return of Andre Brown should do wonders for the unit's skimpy production.

Brown is the one runner who offers the most complete range of options, whereas the tandem of Brandon Jacobs and Peyton Hillis is more or less more of a between-the-tackles threat.  

 

Receivers

Al Bello/Getty Images

The Raiders receivers have combined for 70 receptions for 1,010 yards and five touchdowns, but those numbers are a bit misleading considering that they're being thrown to by a quarterback who, as noted above, is still learning the finer points of throwing passes at the NFL level.  

Thus, give the advantage to the Giants in this group, as for any issues they've had with dropped passes, communication issues, etc., they still are on the receiving end of passes thrown by a quarterback who has been there and done that.  

 

Tight Ends

After a slow start to the season, former Raider and current Giants tight end Brandon Myers finally looks like he has settled down in the Giants offense.

Al Bello/Getty Images

While Myers won’t be mistaken for a top-notch blocking tight end, he’s become more reliable in the receiving game, catching an average of 63.9 percent of the passes thrown his way.

In fact, Myers has had just three games in which he’s failed to convert of at least 60 percent of the pass targets thrown at him.

Jeron Mastrud, who took over the tight end job for the Raiders after Myers left, hasn't been featured as much in the passing game, catching just four out of eight passes thrown his way for 71 yards.

This, however, could be due to the Raiders executing almost as many running plays (237) as passing plays (284).

 

Offensive Line

The Giants offensive line has yet to get through a game this season without giving up at least one sack. To be fair, it has significantly calmed down in the last four games, allowing five sacks, half of what it allowed in its first four.

As a run-blocking unit, the Giants are averaging 3.2 yards per carry, 30th in the NFL.

Al Bello/Getty Images

While part of that is on the running backs, the offensive line hasn't done the best job in opening up holes in between the tackles.

The Raiders offensive line would appear to be worse, especially from a pass-blocking perspective. Oakland has given up 32 sacks this season, a rate of 4.1 sacks per game, which is 31st in the NFL.

The unit has been much better in its run blocking, as its rushing game is averaging 5.0 yards per attempt, third in the league.

 

Defensive Line

The Giants defensive line has been nothing short of spectacular this season against the run in limiting opponents to 3.6 yards per carry.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

That has largely been a result of the interior, which continues to take away cutback lanes, and, of course, the addition of linebacker Jon Beason, who can keep up with runners going from sideline to sideline.

The pass rush has even started to show signs of life, as in their last game, the Giants made it to double digits in the sack column.

Still, the Giants pass rush has a ways to go to reach the level of effectiveness of the Raiders, who have 23.0 sacks for the season.

 

Linebackers

The play of middle linebacker Jon Beason and Jacquian Williams, currently a sub-personnel player who by season's end will probably move into a starting role on the weak side, has been solid. 

Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Beason

The Giants linebackers might not have the numbers that the Raiders' unit has as far as tackles, but that doesn't mean that this unit isn't playing more stout defense of late, as it has done a better job of filling holes and limiting the damage done at the second level.

Since the arrival of Beason, the Giants' run defense, which was allowing an average of 122.5 yards per game, has seen that total drop to 102.3 yards per game. Moreover, the addition of a now-healthy Williams gives the Giants their best coverage linebacker. 

 

Defensive Backs

Despite the injuries to Corey Webster, the Giants cornerbacks have played solid ball according to stats posted at Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

Terrell Thomas, the NFC Defensive Player of the Week (Week 8), is looking more and more like his old self after his strong showing against the Eagles before the bye week, a game in which he logged a Giants season-high 11 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.

Prince Amukamara continues to quietly have a strong season, having surrendered just one touchdown while leading the team with four pass breakups.

Rich Schultz/Getty Images
Trumaine McBride knocks the ball loose from Eagles wideout DeSean Jackson's grip.

Trumaine McBride has also opened a few eyes with his ability to break up passes after initially appearing to have been beaten.  

He's allowed 46.2 percent of the balls thrown against him to be completed and has yet to allow a touchdown this season since taking over for Webster.

At safety, Antrel Rolle has been everywhere—in the box, in coverage and in the slot—and has done well. The return of Will Hill has also been a plus for the Giants, as Hill has particularly excelled against the run.

The Raiders' defensive secondary has combined for three interceptions, one apiece by safety Charles Woodson and corners Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter (vs. the six interceptions by the Giants defensive backs).

In addition, the Raiders' defensive backfield has allowed 66.8 percent of the passes thrown at it to go for completions, per data derived from Pro Football Focus.

 

Special Teams

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

As outlined in this recent piece about the Giants' special teams, the unit has been a mess this season, and not just on punt coverage, where it's given up a league-leading three punt returns for touchdowns.

The coaches might have self-scouted this over the bye week, but the fact remains that they're not getting any new players to help shore up this problem spot. The best they can hope for is that the players they do have start to become more comfortable playing special teams. 

Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland’s long-time place-kicker, has made nine of 13 field goals (69.2 percent). That puts him 30th in the NFL.

The Raiders are also worse than the Giants in kickoff-return average, with 20.2 yards per return (30th in the NFL), though they do top the Giants with a net punting average of 40.6 to New York’s 35.4.

 

Coaching/Intangibles

Raiders head coach Dennis Allen revealed that the team will fly to New Jersey on Friday in order to allow it to become acclimated to the time-zone change.

This could be a key move by Allen considering a recent study done by Sports Insights that found that, since 2005, teams based in the Pacific Time Zone have gone 44-57 (43.6 percent) in games played on the East Coast.

 

Strategy Preview

Giants Offense vs. Raiders Defense

Despite being blasted by the Eagles offense last week, the Raiders defense is an active group that gets after the quarterback, fills holes between the tackles and does a nice job of taking away the deep ball.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Eli Manning and the Giants should take advantage of the short passing game the Raiders usually give up.

One of Oakland’s strengths is in its ability to win its one-on-one battles up front and stop plays for zero or negative yardage.

According to the team’s weekly media information packet distributed in advance of the game, the Raiders have posted 46 tackles for a loss, with right defensive end Lamarr Houston’s seven leading the way.

Based on the stats in the table below, logic would dictate that the Giants try to send most of their rushing attempts behind center and the right guard (Jim Cordle and David Diehl, respectively).  

However, when it comes to run blocking, those two players have had some trouble sustaining one-on-one blocks, so look for them to be engaged in mostly combo blocks. 

2013 Giants Rushing Offense by Direction
Direction No. Plays Avg. Gain NFL Rank
Left End 20 4.10 24
Left Tackle 20 2.40 29
Left Guard 25 3.40 20
Middle 35 3.49 25
Right Guard 30 3.60 13
Right Tackle 18 2.56 31
Right end 22 22.05 31

Source: NFL Game and Statistic Information System (login required)

The one vice for the Raiders defense this season, though, is that it’s allowed a league-high 68.7 percent of opposing passes to be completed against it.

“They don’t give up many big plays and so they do a good job of keeping things underneath and making tackles and kind of make you have long drives and be patient,” said Giants quarterback Eli Manning.

If Manning’s hypothesis is true, then that aspect must be taken into consideration by offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, who historically has preferred the deep pass vs. the underneath stuff.

“A lot of times that gives you completions, but those completions aren't always leading to first downs, so you kind of have to get two or three completions to get first downs. They do a good job of mixing up different coverages and getting pressure on the quarterback and doing a number of different looks.”

Thus, if the Giants take what the Raiders give them, which includes the short passes underneath, New York should be able to win the time-of-possession battle and, more importantly, keep Pryor and his offensive weapons on the sideline.

 

Giants Defense vs. Raiders Offense

There’s a good reason why the Raiders are currently ranked fourth in the NFL in rushing yards per game. (147.8), and that reason is their quarterback, Terrelle Pryor.

Pryor, who is the Raiders' leading rusher with 485 yards on 63 carries, is averaging 7.7 yards per rushing attempt. Besides having impressive size—Pryor is listed as 6'4", 233 pounds—what makes him especially difficult to defend is his unpredictability.

"You have the designed quarterback runs but at the same time, he improvises,” said Giants middle linebacker Jon Beason.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Will Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor's rushing be limited due to a knee injury?

"He’ll just tuck the ball one play and keep it, or if it’s supposed to be a run, he’ll just keep it. To be that big and fast, that’s a tough guy.”

So how do the Giants defend Pryor and the Raiders' favorite offensive alignment, 21 personnel (two running backs and one tight end)?

Gap control and contain will be key to defending this personnel alignment, which, according to NFL Game Statistics Information System (login required), is averaging 11 yards per rush.

“Everyone has to be in their gap," Beason said. “You won’t necessarily be the guy making the play, but if you have to help the guy next to you, at least be in a position to do so.”

 

What They're Saying

"I think he’s a little more similar to a young Vince Young than Cam, but obviously there are similarities there between him and Cam, too. I think he’s more of a Vince Young-type."

—Giants defensive end Justin Tuck on whom Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor reminds him of.

 

"I think the biggest difference is they won the turnover-takeaway ratio in the last couple of ball games, and I think we all know what a big factor that is as far as your ability to win football games. It (also) looks like over the last couple of weeks they made an increased emphasis on trying to run the football, and they've done a great job of stopping the run on defense and created takeaways on defense."

—Raiders head coach Dennis Allen on the differences between the Giants' first six games and their last two. 

 

I think anybody would take it personally, but I’m happy with where I’m at. I’m fine with it."

—Giants tight end Brandon Myers, on if he felt slighted when the Raiders, with whom he spend the first four seasons of his career, didn't even offer him a contract to stay last offseason.

 

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

"It’s just a lot of hard work. I can use you guys as (an example). The more research you guys do and the more time you put into on what you want to write, an interview or story, it all comes into account. It has the same thing to do with a quarterback. So as much research as I do, as hard as I want to work, is going to determine the success of you guys or whoever is looking to have success. Every single day I was putting my head down and grinding and researching who can help me. I’m becoming better."

—Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor, on his development as a quarterback

 

"I think we are close on a number of plays; we just have a few things where we’re just inches away from having touchdowns instead of incompletions on some things. But I feel good that we’re making progress. We are getting better and we’re going to continue to improve."

—Giants quarterback Eli Manning when asked if the Giants offense might snaps its streak of five quarters without a touchdown this weekend. 

Raiders at Giants: Wednesday Injury Report
Giants Injury Raiders Injury
RB David Wilson Neck S Tyvon Branch Ankle
WR Victor Cruz Neck WR Juron Criner Shoulder
CB Terrell Thomas Knee K Sebastian Janikowski Rib
CB Corey Webster Groin LB Kaluka Maiava Rib
CB Jayron Hosley Hamstring T Matt McCants Toe
RB Brandon Jacobs Hamstring RB Darren McFadden Hamstring
DT Shaun Rogers Knee T Tony Pashos Hip
TE Adrien Robinson Foot C/G Andre Gurode Quad
WR Andre Holmes Hamstring
CB Tracy Porter Shoulder
QB Terrelle Pryor Knee
WR Rod Streater Hip

Source: NFL

 

Injury Analysis 

The bye week appeared to have done the majority of the Giants players well, as of the three who didn't practice on Wednesday, only cornerback Corey Webster appears to be in danger of missing Sunday’s game.

The rest of the injury list is somewhat deceiving. For example, running back Brandon Jacobs was listed as being limited in practice for the team’s last game and in fact said he could have played.

However, he did not, and with Andre Brown expected to be activated off injured reserve by 4 PM ET on Thursday, it will be interesting to see if the Giants continue to carry Jacobs on the roster of if they place him on season-ending injured reserve.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Victor Cruz’s situation bears a mention. Cruz participated in the team’s walk-through practice on Monday, but then told reporters that he felt some stiffness in his neck on Tuesday when he came in for his routine treatment.

His report of stiffness was enough for the medical team to run additional tests and to conclude that it would be in the receiver’s best interest to hold him out one more day.

“No setbacks for me,” Cruz said. “I think it was just something that they just wanted to have me take a day and take a step back and see how it feels and just go forward from there. That’s all it was.”

What’s of mild concern, though, is that Cruz, who went back into the game after suffering the injury, had a full week to heal. If he’s still experiencing stiffness in his neck, how much, if any, of a factor will that be for a player who needs to be able to turn his head as he’s running routes to look for the ball?

 

This Week’s Game Stats and Facts
(Courtesy of the NFL's Communications Office, unless otherwise noted)

Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor is the league-leading rusher among quarterbacks. Pryor has 485 rushing yards and needs just 45 more to surpass Rich Gannon, who had 529 yards in 2000, for most rushing yards by a Raiders quarterback.

Raiders receiver Denarius Moore is averaging 17.4 yards per catch (27 catches, 470 receiving yards) in his last six games. He leads the Raiders with 212 yards after the catch this season.

Giants quarterback Eli Manning achieved a perfect 158.3 passer rating the last time he faced the Raiders. In that game, Manning completed eight of 10 for 173 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
Charles Woodson's teams are 5-0 vs. the Giants in his career.

Raiders safety Charles Woodson has never been on a team that has played the Giants and lost in the regular season. Woodson has faced New York five times during the regular season in his career.

Giants running back Andre Brown, who will reportedly be activated off the temporary injured reserve list, has rushed for eight touchdowns in his last nine games, including a five-game streak with at least one rushing touchdown.

Raiders cornerback Mike Jenkins has two interceptions and a forced fumble in games against the Giants.

Giants running back Andre Brown, who will reportedly be activated off the temporary injured reserve list, has rushed for eight touchdowns in his last nine games, including a five-game streak with at least one rushing touchdown.

Raiders linebacker Sio Moore has 2.5 sacks in his last three games.

Giants receiver Victor Cruz is looking to record his third-consecutive game of 100 or more receiving yards against an AFC opponent. Cruz currently has 18 catches for 282 yards (141 per game) and a 69-yard touchdown in two games played vs. AFC opponents this season (Kansas City and Denver).

 

Prediction

The Giants are well-rested, energetic and, most importantly, in a winning streak.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Pat's Pick: Giants 24, Raiders 14

Although the rest of the NFC East teams didn't do them any favors last weekend by winning their games, the important thing to take away is that the Giants are no longer a group wondering what they have to do to win a game because they now realize what it takes.

The Raiders, who are 0-2 this season against NFC East teams, aren't really as bad as they looked against the Eagles last week, and the chances of another team having that kind of performance against them again this season are probably slim to none.

With that said, when a team is beaten that badly and then has to make a cross-country trip the following week to face another opponent whose confidence is sky-high, it could make for a tougher battle that should end well for the home team this week.

 

Patricia Traina is the senior editor for Inside Football. All quotes and information obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted. Follow Patricia on Twitter, @Patricia_Traina.

 

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