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Versus: The quarterbacks of the offense and the defense will need to step up against Giants

It's a new day for the Las Vegas Raiders.

Sunday's game will be the first with Antonio Pierce serving as interim head coach. The young, talented roster and coaching staff will undoubtedly help Pierce be ready for the moment in a time of change.

As the Raiders and Giants seem evenly matched heading into this contest, here are three key matchups that could create separation in Allegiant Stadium.

Aidan O'Connell vs. Kayvon Thibodeaux

Aidan O'Connell was named the starting quarterback "going forward" by Pierce on Wednesday, saying he "gives us the best chance."

The rookie quarterback from Purdue has shown promise in limited action this season. After tearing up defenses in the preseason, he's appeared in two games in the regular season – going 34-of-52 for 313 yards, two touchdowns (one passing and one rushing) and two interceptions.

In his first NFL start Week 4 against the Los Angeles Chargers, he made some tough throws to keep the Raiders in the game. However, pocket presence and holding on to the football were issues that plagued him.

He must clean up those issues with Kayvon Thibodeaux on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage. The Giants' second-year edge rusher from Oregon is leading the team in sacks (8.5) and tackles for loss (tied-10) with a forced fumble this season. Along with defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, Thibodeaux has been a bright spots in a Giants defense that's ranked 12th in fewest passing yards allowed per game.

"They have great players up front that play really hard and are dynamic," O'Connell said of the Giants defense. "We're going to have to do a great job of playing hard and matching their intensity and executing."

Robert Spillane vs. Saquon Barkley

Saquon Barkley is arguably the biggest weapon in the Giants offense. He's shown he can take games over with a balance of speed and power – either running past you or over you.

Along with his exceptional athleticism, he's one of the better pass-catching running backs in the league as well. He currently leads his team in total scrimmage yards (499) and total touchdowns (three). With the threat the two-time Pro Bowler possess in the running and passing attack, linebacker Robert Spillane will serve best for the Raiders defense to combat him.

The Raiders team captain is enjoying one of his best NFL seasons, leading the team in total tackles (65) and tacking on a pair of pass deflections and interceptions.

The linebackers room has become banged up with injuries recently, as Divine Deablo missed last week's game with an ankle injury and Luke Masterson is currently in concussion protocol. Spillane does have a hand injury and was a limited participant in Thursday's practice, but hopefully, the quarterback of the defense will be able to go on Sunday.

Bo Hardegree vs. Mike Kafka

There's no secret that both team's offenses has struggled this season. The Raiders rank 31st in the league in total offense, with the Giants right behind them at 32.

With the Raiders miscues, there was a change made to who will be the lead play caller for the Silver and Black offense. Bo Hardegree is stepping in as interim offensive coordinator, adding on play-calling duties as well as coaching the QBs. While this will be his first game play-calling in the NFL, he brings 10 years of coaching experience in the league with him.

"I've had the privilege of working with Bo in three different buildings now," Interim General Manager Champ Kelly said Wednesday. "He's not afraid of the moment. So, we're confident in him. He's going to be authentically himself in this situation."

Hardegree will be tasked of finding ways to outscore Giants offensive coordinator Mike Kafka this week, who's expecting starting quarterback Daniel Jones to return from injury. Despite the Giants' offensive woes of late, Kafka revamped their squad in his arrival in 2022, helping led the team to a playoff berth.

View director of photography Michael Clemens' top picks of black and white photos from the Raiders' Week 8 matchup against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.

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