The Giants will try to bounce back from Monday's close loss to the Chiefs when they welcome the Las Vegas Raiders to MetLife Stadium on Sunday.
Playing on Monday Night Football for the first time this season, the Giants lost a close one to the defending AFC Champions. The defense forced two Chiefs turnovers while holding their offense to 5-of-12 on third down, but a late Harrison Butker field goal sealed the 20-17 victory for Kansas City.
The Raiders enter this matchup after their bye week in Week 8. Prior to the time off, Las Vegas had won two consecutive games, defeating the Broncos by 10 and Eagles by 11, to improve their record to 5-2. The two recent wins came with Interim Head Coach Rich Bisaccia at the helm.
Here are five story lines to follow in the Week 9 matchup.
Going into the bye on a high note
The Giants lost a tough one last week, but never trailed by more than a touchdown. They were unable to pull off the upset as they lost on a 34-yard field goal with just over a minute remaining. Five of the Giants' final eight games following the bye are against teams who currently sport a record under .500. A win against the Raiders would give the Giants some nice momentum heading into the bye and the second half of the season.
"It's a big week for us," said quarterback Daniel Jones. "They all are. With the bye coming up, it's a big game for us and we'll approach it like we do for all games and make sure we're prepared and ready to go."
Awaiting injury, COVID statuses
The Giants have been dealing with a rash of injuries among their offensive playmakers in recent weeks. Wide receiver Sterling Shepard (hamstring) had missed three of the previous four games before returning for Week 8, while Kadarius Toney (ankle) was hurt early in Week 6 before missing the following week. Both receivers made it back for the game Monday, but neither was able to play the full allotment of snaps. Shepard departed the game early with a quad injury, while Toney only played 57 percent of snaps due to his ankle injury and his hand getting stepped on by a Chiefs defender.
It remains to be seen if those two receivers will make it back in time for Sunday's game, and the team is also uncertain about two of its other star players. Running back Saquon Barkley and wide receiver Kenny Golladay have both missed the last three games and have yet to return to practice.
In addition to the injuries, the Giants have three players in the COVID protocol: Barkley, defensive back Xavier McKinney and offensive lineman Matt Skura. Running backs coach Burton Burns was also among those who tested positive.
"As a team, we've done a really good job of the guys following the protocols and staying committed to it," Judge exclaimed. "I think the thing that's really shown up a lot more this year than last year is obviously with being vaccinated with the protocols being what they are, which are obviously a lot more relaxed than last year, you've still got to be very vigilant in terms of what you're doing outside the building and a lot of times it comes to you.
"Now look, Burton Burns tested positive and the first thing he said to me is he was apologetic. He doesn't go anywhere. Burton goes from his apartment to here. He gets on the team plane and he goes to the hotel and he doesn't leave when he gets to the hotel, so he's only been places with the team. As I told Burton, I said the one thing about this whole deal is you don't have to go somewhere to get it, it can come to you. You never know where it goes. So we've just got to do a good job of just staying up on symptoms, reporting symptoms. We do our testing as the league mandates and just making sure we communicate with the trainers and we stay in compliance with all the protocols."
Capitalize in the red zone
The Giants improved their red zone numbers this past week, scoring touchdowns on two of three trips inside Kansas City 20. On their one unsuccessful trip, the offense got the ball inside the 10 but was unable to punch it in the end zone, settling for a 23-yard field goal by Graham Gano.
The Giants enter Week 9 ranked 31st in the league in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on 11 of 23 trips. Las Vegas has allowed touchdowns on 15 of 18 opponent trips inside the red zone, with its 83.3 percentage ranking 31st. Their last time on the field, the Raiders allowed the Philadelphia Eagles to score on three of its four chances.
View rare photos of the history between the Giants and Raiders ahead of their Week 9 matchup.
Slowing down Derek Carr
The Raiders head into Week 9 with one of the top offenses in the NFL, ranking 9th in yards and 11th in points per game. A big reason for their offensive success is due to the play of quarterback Derek Carr. Through the first seven games of the season, the eighth-year veteran has thrown for 2,269 yards, 12 touchdowns and just five interceptions. Las Vegas' 307.9 net passing yards per game is the second-highest mark in the league.
Despite his success this year, Carr has thrown an interception in five of seven games. Over Las Vegas' two-game winning streak, the veteran quarterback has completed 80.3 percent of his passes for a total of 664 yards, four touchdowns and one interception, including an impressive 91.2 completion percentage against the Eagles in Week 7.
"He's got great command," defensive back Logan Ryan said. "That game against the Eagles was a clinic, an offensive clinic. He's got great command of his system and the quarterback has a lot on his plate at the line of scrimmage. I know in that system he's calling a lot of plays at the line of scrimmage. When he knows what you're in, he's calling a good play against that defense and he's taking the profit. He's an accurate thrower, he's a smart thrower of the football, he's taking care of the ball.
"Like I said, he's operating the quarterback position at one of the highest levels in the league right now. You've got to give him his respect. Again, a staple of what we do is we've got to make it difficult on him pre-snap in what he does and what he's seeing, and not let it be the truth all the time, only the truth some of the times. Make him hopefully check in some plays that aren't ideal, so he does worse than 31 of 34."
Going up against former MVP Patrick Mahomes last week, the Giants held up well, limiting Mahomes to a 60.4 completion percentage for 275 yards, one touchdown and one interception. His 74.6 passer rating was his third-lowest of the season, while he threw fewer than two touchdown passes for just the second time all year.
The Raiders have playmakers throughout their offense, starting in the backfield. Starting running back Josh Jacobs left the Week 7 game against the Eagles early with a chest injury. Backup Kenyan Drake has proven to be effective when needed. The two backs have combined for seven rushing touchdowns and the team's eight total rushing scores is tied for ninth in the league.
Tight end Darren Waller leads the team with 53 targets, of which he has caught 33 of them for 378 yards and two touchdowns. Carr has also thrown two touchdowns to the team's second tight end, Foster Moreau, while Jacobs and Drake have combined for 32 receptions for 297 yards and an additional score.
"The one thing that jumps out offensively in terms of how their playing is they're really using the backs and the tight ends as weapons," Coach Judge told the media Wednesday. "They're being very committed to being very balanced and taking the profit. They have shots down the field. Obviously, one of the top teams in shot plays and down the field explosive plays, but that really comes as a result from how they can run the ball consistently and take the gimme pass plays consistently and make you really defend everything on the field."
The Giants did an outstanding job of containing Kansas City's Travis Kelce , limiting the All-Pro tight end to just four receptions for 27 yards with a fumble. However, Chiefs running backs made a big impact in the passing game, catching all six targets for 61 yards.
The Raiders will be without their leading receiver on the year as Henry Ruggs (24 receptions for 469 yards) was released this week after his arrest in Las Vegas. Hunter Renfrow (38 receptions for 399 yards) and Bryan Edwards (18 receptions for 346 yards) have shined at times this season.