What a week it's been.
With Amari Cooper and Derek Carr officially out for Sunday's clash with the New York Giants, and Geno Smith officially getting the nod under center for Ben McAdoo, there certainly haven't been a lack of storylines to follow the past few days.
You understandably had some questions – and for good reason – headed into Sunday's game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, and now, we have those answers; here is this week's Raiders.com Mailbag.
From Ryan L: We won't have Coop and Crab against the Giants. Who's going to pick up the slack? The offense needs to keep rolling!
EP:Headed into 2017, one of the strengths of the Raiders roster was the plethora of playmakers the offense employed. From Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, to Marshawn Lynch and Jared Cook, the Silver and Black were incredibly deep on that side of the football. Well, Sunday afternoon, that depth is going to be tested in a big way. Without Cooper (injury) and Crabtree (suspension), Derek Carr is going to need the other wide receivers on the roster to step up in a big way against the Giants. Rookie Isaac Whitney was promoted to the active roster earlier this week to add a little depth without 'Coop' and 'Crab' but I expect to see a heavy dose of Seth Roberts, Johnny Holton, and Cordarrelle Patterson against the G-men. Don't forget about Jared Cook either, the big tight end is still the Raiders leader in receiving yards, and the Giants have struggled shutting down the tight end in 2017.
From John G: Why did the Giants decide to go with Geno Smith over Eli Manning? Especially at this point in the season.
EP:Well, sitting at 2-9, in the cellar of the NFC East, the Giants aren't doing anything of consequence this season. That being said, Ben McAdoo made a decision that he thinks is the best one for his team going forward. Now, is the timing of inserting Geno Smith as the starting quarterback a little eyebrow raising? Sure, but even though the team is seven games under .500, McAdoo has a responsibility to put his team in the best position to win, and against the Raiders, McAdoo believes Smith is the quarterback who gives the team the best shot. Now, Smith is certainly not a two-time Super Bowl champ like Eli Manning is, but he has found some success during his career against the Raiders. Assistant Head Coach – Defense John Pagano said Thursday that his group is prepping for both quarterbacks, and even though Smith is technically starting I wouldn't be surprised if Manning hit the field at some point.
From Andrew R: After last week's win over the Broncos, is there any worry the team is going to come out flat against the Giants? Is the focus good in the locker room?
EP:I think on paper it would be easy to write off Sunday's game against the Giants; they've changed quarterbacks, they're 2-9, etc., but that couldn't be further away from the way the Raiders are approaching the Week 13 matchup. Look, the Silver and Black are pretty much in playoff mode right now; they need to start winning games, and stacking Ws in a hurry if they want to qualify for the postseason tournament. One game off the division lead with five games left to play, Head Coach Jack Del Rio's team has some margin for error, but that margin is rapidly getting smaller and smaller. These games are critical, no doubt about it, and the players in the locker room fully understand that. So, to answer your question, no, I'm not worried about the team coming out flat; Del Rio and his staff are going to have the guys ready to rock.
From Mike D: Someone said that if the Raiders win tomorrow, they'll be in first place in the AFC West. Is that true?
EP:Yes, that is true, if they get a little help. If the Raiders take care of business and beat the Giants, and both the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers lose, then as a result of the tie breaker, the Silver and Black would technically sit atop of the division. Now, those are three, very big "ifs" but that's the scenario that would need to play out for the Raiders to lead the division by Sunday night. That being said, they don't hand out hats and t-shirts after Week 13, but you asked for the scenario, so there it is.