The Oakland Raiders (3-5) travel to take on the New York Giants (2-6) to play a team that has struggled on offense. Defensively, the G-men rank ninth against the rush and 13th against the pass.
The Raiders are almost facing themselves.
They key difference between the two teams lies in the rushing game. New York is 30th in the league and has averaged a pedestrian 69 yards per game while Oakland is among the league’s best with just under 100 yards on the ground.
A large portion of that has come from Raiders’ quarterback Terrelle Pryor, a specialist in his own right with incredible speed. Teams have pressured Pryor differently than pocket quarterbacks and the Giants should be no different.
Running back Darren McFadden will be out Sunday, leaving Rashad Jennings to do most of the heavy lifting. Given the pressure on defensive linemen to contain Pryor, some delayed inside runs could be in the making. Jennings has played admirably on his small contract, averaging 4.7 yards per attempt on 51 carries.
Eli Manning, to the dismay of many, has been the weak point on the Giants team. He has thrown 15 interceptions in his eight games and has no help from the run game. Without the run to worry about, defensive coordinator Jason Tarver has an opportunity for creativity with his blitz packages.
If he feels that linebackers Kevin Burnett and Nick Roach can cover the speed receivers that New York has over the middle, rookie Sio Moore could have a fun day.
Menelik Watson vs. Justin Tuck
Watson, who is a behemoth 6-foot-5 and 315 pounds, will have one of the toughest days any player could have in the NFL as he goes head-up with all-pro defensive end Justin Tuck.
Watson will get some help from either Lucas Nix or Lamar Mady, but will need to hold his own. Tuck has tapered off in 2013 without much interior help, but is still a force on the edge.
Pryor has had a solid four seconds or better to throw for much of the season. Continuing this will be crucial for offensive success.
Denarius Moore vs. Prince Amukamara
Oakland’s No. 1 receiver, Moore, finally gets a favorable matchup heading into the Meadowlands. Amukamara is hardly a ball-hawk, though he does have a knack for knocking the ball loose. Moore will need to be physical when facing press coverage and take the fight to Prince, not the other way around.
Lamarr Houston vs. Will Beatty
The Raiders have struggled mightily on the edge, and like the Giants, have been without an interior rushing presence. Oakland and Houston might be able to repeat their pass-rushing success from two weeks ago if their ends are able to extend and beat the tackles off the ball. This will start with Houston.
He is one of the better edge rushers in the league but Beatty is the heart and soul of the New York offensive line.
An open question is whether Manning has been able to get over his passing woes and not turn the ball over. The two top Raiders corners, Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter, have been well above average when defending their islands. But they also face a very tough task with Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks.
Both wideouts are in the upper class of what they do. Cruz is as fast as his name suggests, while Nicks can box out like Shaq in the low post. Because of this, bumping them off their routes will be key.
Forcing them inside to Charles Woodson and the linebackers, giving the defensive line an extra second to collapse the pocket, the Raiders can win this way.
Though the Raiders possess the talent to contain the two wideouts, it’s also easier said than done.