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Las Vegas Raiders (5-2) at GIANTS (2-6)
Sunday, 1 p.m.
Spread: Raiders minus-3
The Giants offense has had enough problems this season. They certainly didn’t need a disruption to their routine on an already-short week.
But that’s what they got thanks to the Giants’ COVID-19 mess this week, with a slew of false positive tests resulting in new protocols. They were still able to practice, for the most part, but they had to switch all their meetings to virtual and their facility was closed for a day. That’s not exactly an insurmountable challenge.
It's just one more unwanted obstacle in their way.
They already are dealing with season-long struggle of a unit that hasn’t topped 30 points once and has been held to fewer than 25 points in five of their eight games – an absurdity in this high-scoring NFL era. And they’re dealing with the loss of running back Saquon Barkley and for a fourth-straight game, and now receiver Sterling Shepard will join him on the sideline, too.
As usual, that’s a problem in a game against a potent offense – the Raiders rank ninth overall, second in passing – where they’re going to have to score a lot to win.
Of course, it’s been an emotionally draining week for the Raiders too. They were dealing with a far more serious situation – the tragic car crash that left a woman dead and got receiver Henry Ruggs III arrested for DUI. Ruggs was quickly released, but there’s no doubt the entire Raiders locker room was shaken by what occurred.
It’s impossible to even guess at how that might affect them on the field.
Even without Ruggs, though, the Raiders have a dangerous passing attack. Quarterback Derek Carr is having a terrific season – statistically one of his best – even though the Raiders’ running game has been struggling. He has some excellent receivers in Hunter Renfrow and tight end Darren Waller, and they hope Zay Jones can step into Ruggs’ shoes.
That puts a lot of pressure on the Giants defense to play the way it’s played over the last two weeks, particularly on Monday night in Kansas City. They did a terrific job of clamping down on the “game-breakers” in Kansas City and will need to do it again with the Raiders, limiting their big plays and slowing the game down. It would be even better if they could get pressure on Carr, though that hasn’t been an easy thing for the Giants’ pass rushers all year long.
With the way they’re playing, it does look like things have clicked for the Giants defense. So against a team coming off a tough week and a cross-country flight, it’s easy to have faith that the defense can get the job done.
But the offense is just hard to trust. It plays well in spurts, but not consistently. It can’t generate the kind of running game it needs control the game. The best hope is that Daniel Jones and Kadarius Toney can keep moving with what has looked like a really promising and possibly special connection before Toney got hurt. If Toney gets going with another Odell Beckham-like performance, this game could change in a hurry.
And that’s what I think will happen. I think Toney is healthy enough to spark the offense and carry them even with Barkley, Shepard, and maybe Kenny Golladay out. And with the Giants’ defense continuing its recent positive trend, that might turn out to be just enough to pull this upset off.
They were close to doing just that on Monday night in Kansas City. One of these days, odds are that one of these close games is going to turn the Giants’ way.