Oct 082009
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By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com

Approach to the Game – Oakland Raiders at New York Giants, October 11, 2009: The Raiders are not very good so everyone is expecting another Giants win.  It’s not that the Raiders don’t have talent, but their quarterback doesn’t seem to care about football and he is playing at an atrociously bad level.  The Raiders do have some scary speed on offense and their defense is respectable.  They have very good special teams as well.

The upside to the Giants’ injury situation – if there is one – is that all of the injuries may be focusing the team a little more than it normally would against the dregs of the NFL.  This is a game the Giants should win if they stay focused, play with passion, and execute.

At the quarter mark of the season, though it is still early, it appears that the Giants’ main competition for the division crown will be the Eagles.  The Redskins are struggling to beat bad football teams and the Cowboys – though capable of playing with anyone – just don’t seem to have “it” and their quarterback is struggling.  The Eagles are 2-1 coming off a bye week.  They only have one loss and they are getting healthy.  The Giants can ill-afford to drop a very winnable game against a bad team at home.  Get to 5-0 and stay ahead of the Eagles in the loss column!

Giants on Offense: I’m not sure I would play Eli this week.  The real question is would a week off help his foot to the point where you might trade a loss against the Raiders in order to have him healthier for the remaining regular season games?  I’m not a doctor and I can’t answer that question.  If the Giants do want to sit Eli, it makes sense for them to keep the Raiders guessing up until game time.

The Raiders have more talent on defense than their 18th total defensive ranking (11th against the pass and 26th against the run).  But as those stats suggest, with or without Eli, the Giants focus should be running the football.

The Raiders’ secondary is much better than that of the Giants’ first four opponents.  It’s pretty obvious that they will take their chances by matching up one-on-one against the young Giants’ receivers, thereby allowing them to crowd the line of scrimmage against the run.  This will be the sternest test to date for Steve Smith, Mario Manningham, Hakeem Nicks, and possibly Domenik Hixon (knee).  Can they do it?  Nnamdi Asomugha is arguably the best cornerback in football.  Chris Johnson, the other starting corner, is very good in man-to-man coverage.  Michael Huff is a quality safety.  If the Raiders can take the Giants’ wide receivers out of this game, and with TE Kevin Boss (ankle) either not likely to play or limited, the Giants may have real problems moving the football.  Linebacker Thomas Howard is excellent in coverage too so the backs may have problems as well.

The Raiders have some talent up front.  DE Richard Seymour is still one of the best and the Giants are very familiar with DE Greg Ellis who used to give them fits when he played with Dallas.  But the defensive tackles – Gerard Warren and Tommy Kelly – have been disappointing.  The Giants may be able to make some hay with power football up the gut, provided there is not too much congestion from extra defenders in the box.

On paper, this game could be a problem for the Giants’ offense.  But the Raiders don’t appear to be all that interested.  The best thing the Giants can do in this game is to take the life out of them early by hitting them in the mouth repeatedly with the power running game and throw in some play-action passing for the big play.

Giants on Defense: The Raiders are dreadful on offense, dead last in the NFL in total yards.  The quarterback sucks and the offensive line isn’t much better.  To make matters worse, the Raiders have injury issues with HB Darren McFadden (knee), RT Cornell Green (calf), LG Robert Gallery (leg) out.  TE Zach Miller is coming off a concussion.

This is a game the Giants should dominate up front.  If they don’t, shame on them.  Shut down the run and get after QB JaMarcus Russell.  The only worries?  Rookie receivers Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy are both incredibly fast.  They could easily blow by the Giants’ corners and safeties for a long touchdown if the secondary is not careful.  That’s why the defensive line has to get to Russell.  The other worry?  The Raiders might actually bench Russell.

The Giants’ defense can really help out the Giants’ offense in this game by creating some turnovers and providing the offense with a short field.

Giants on Special Teams: The Raiders have arguably the game’s best set of kickers in punter Shane Lechler and place kicker Sebastian Janikowski.  Justin Miller (kickoffs) and Johnnie Lee Higgins (punts) are very, very dangerous returners.  Teams can win or lose games on special teams and the Giants have to be careful here by being very solid in their kickoff and punt coverage.

Does Lawrence Tynes miss another?

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Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of BigBlueInteractive.com, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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