Well, headed into Week 13, currently a game under .500, the Oakland Raiders are still, somehow, someway in the thick of things in the AFC playoff picture, specifically the AFC West.
Entering play this weekend the Silver and Black sit just a game back of the freefalling Kansas City Chiefs, but with just five games left on the regular season slate, every contest becomes all the more important.
While the Chiefs travel to New York to take on the New York Jets, the Silver and Black will play host to the New York Giants in a bid to get their sixth win of 2017.
With suspensions, surprise starters, and players likely not suiting up because of injury, there certainly aren’t a lack of intriguing storylines to follow this Sunday at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, so without further ado, here are three matchups to watch, presented by Madden 18.
Assistant Head Coach – Defense John Pagano vs. Quarterback Geno Smith
By now, I’m sure you’ve heard the news that Geno Smith is going to get the start Sunday afternoon when the Giants take on the Silver and Black.
No, not Eli Manning who has captained the team for over a decade, winning two Super Bowls in the process, but Geno Smith, who has appeared in just a single game this year.
The move by Head Coach Ben McAdoo has understandably drawn strong reactions from across the NFL landscape, but alas, that’s who the Giants will be rolling with Sunday.
Smith hasn’t started a game since October 2016 when he was still a member of the New York Jets, but if the Giants want any chance of flying back to the east coast with a win, they’ll need a big game from Smith.
“Geno loves football,” said McAdoo. “He’ll bring a lot of energy and enthusiasm for the game to us, and some creativity as well. His game is different than Eli’s game. We’re excited to go out and watch him play.”
On the other sideline, John Pagano is now at the helm of the Raiders defense, and his unit is coming off a resurgent performance against the Denver Broncos, where they allowed just 219 total yards en route to a pivotal Week 12 win.
Will the Silver and Black’s defense be able to deliver back-to-back strong performances? We’ll just have to wait and find out.
Wide Receiver Seth Roberts vs. Cornerback Ross Cockrell
Next man up.
It’s been the motto for the Raiders all season, and they’ll have to employ that mantra once again Sunday afternoon, as they’ll unquestionably be without the services of Derek Carr and possibly without Amari Cooper as well.
Without his top two targets out wide, Todd Downing will look to Seth Roberts – the team’s primary slot receiver – to shoulder more of the burden.
Entering Sunday’s clash at the OACC, Roberts has caught 24 passes for 262 yards, and one touchdown, so I’ll be interested to see how he’s utilized against a Giants defense that currently ranks 29th against the pass.
The Giants will also head into the Week 13 battle without a full deck either as Janoris Jenkins – arguably their best defensive back – has been placed on the Reserve/Injured List.
As unfortunate as it is, injuries are part of the game, and oftentimes the team that deals with those injuries the best is the one who ends up winning the game.
Tackle Marshall Newhouse vs. Defensive End Jason Pierre-Paul
Have the Giants struggled on defense this season? Absolutely.
Steve Spagnuolo’s group gives up just over 24 points per game, and allowing an average of 389.9 yards per game, they rank No. 31 in total defense.
Now, while the Giants *statistically *might not strike fear in the heart of the opponent, you have to always be aware of where veteran defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is lined up.
With 6.5 sacks in 2017, “JPP” is just a have sack shy of his total output all of last year, and while he may no longer be the player who took down the quarterback 12.5 times in 2014, he’s still a player that is capable of making his presence felt along the defensive line.
While Pierre-Paul will likely move around the defensive front Sunday afternoon, I expect to see him going one-on-one against Newhouse for much of the game.
The Raiders have shown time and again that when Derek Carr has time to operate, he’s lethal from the pocket, so hopefully Newhouse and Co. can give No. 4 that luxury.