It was a strange week for the Giants, as a series of false positive COVID tests forced the team to hold meetings virtually while the situation was sorted out. More than 13 players, coaches and team members tested positive over the last few days, only for the re-tests to show that these individuals were negative. The only individual who was confirmed as positive was running backs coach Burton Burns, who has been participating in meetings virtually all week. Saquon Barkley and Xavier McKinney were removed from the COVID list Friday morning, leaving Gary Brightwell as the only player still on the list at that time.
"We're getting everybody ready, whether that's virtual meetings or however we have to do it," coach Joe Judge said. "We'll keep everyone ready and up for the game, and when we have final answers, then we'll go ahead and plow forward. Until we find out whether we have to test tomorrow or continuously throughout game day, I've told the coaches and players that everyone's got to be ready. I've told the coaches, we could get to Sunday morning and they could tell us we lost a dozen people. I don't want to hear any excuses, have the next guy ready to go, have a game plan ready that includes changing personnel, changing scheme. Whatever we have to do, be very fluid in this. That's our job as coaches, make sure we have the best plan available regardless of who's available."
Sunday's game will be the 14th meeting between the Giants and Raiders since they first played each other on Nov. 4, 1973, a game which resulted in a 42-0 victory for the Raiders. The Raiders won the first three games between the two clubs before the Giants won back-to-back games in the late 1980s. The last meeting between the two teams was in 2017, when the then Oakland Raiders beat the Giants, 24-17. Prior to that game, the Giants had won each of the previous three games, dating to 2005.
- Out: RB Saquon Barkley (Ankle/Cleared COVID Protocol), LB Lorenzo Carter (Ankle), DB Nate Ebner (Ankle), WR Dante Pettis (Shoulder/IR), WR Sterling Shepard (Quad)
- Questionable: RB Gary Brightwell (COVID Protocol), WR Kenny Golladay (Knee), WR John Ross (Quad)
- Out: N/A
- Questionable: N/A
The O-line did a relatively good job of protecting Daniel Jones against the Chiefs, surrendering just one sack prior to the final drive of the game. Matt Skura, Billy Price, Nate Solder and Matt Peart were four of the six highest-graded players for the Giants on offense last week, including Price earning an elite 85.0 pass block grade. But the unit faces a much more dominant pass rush this week, as the Raiders have been getting after the quarterback unlike any other team this year. Coming into this game, Las Vegas leads the NFL with a 38.7 QB pressure percentage, almost seven points higher than the next best team. Yannick Ngakoue leads the NFL with 28 QB hurries, while Maxx Crosby is tied for second with 24. As a team, the Raiders have the most QB hits in the NFL.
"Defensively, it really starts with their front…" Coach Judge said about the Raiders' defense. "They get after you. They're very disruptive. They can mix in some blitzes and some pressures, but ultimately really, it's a front four that gets after you and puts the pressure on you and allows them to play very sound in coverage with seven back deep for the most part of it."
"He's a good player. He's a guy that can get after the quarterback," Daniel Jones said about Crosby, the Raiders' leader in sacks (five). "He puts a lot of pressure on offenses to get the ball out on time and plays really hard. He's got really good pass rush moves. He's a hard guy to block, so we'll do a good job preparing for him."
KEEP THE TIGHT ENDS ROLLING
Heading into Week 8, the Giants had gotten zero touchdowns from their collective group of tight ends. That changed on Monday, as Kyle Rudolph got the team's scoring going with a 1-yard touchdown catch. Then in the fourth quarter, Evan Engram caught his first touchdown of the season, a 5-yard grab to give the Giants a 17-14 lead. The two have combined for 35 catches for 285 yards and the two scores this season.
Tight ends have caught a total of 44 passes for 477 yards and four touchdowns in seven games against Las Vegas. In their last two games (both wins), the defense allowed Philadelphia's Dallas Goedert to catch three passes for 70 yards and Denver's Noah Fant to grab nine passes for 97 yards and a touchdown.
WILL GOLLADAY RETURN?
Kenny Golladay had a solid start to his season, catching 17 passes for 282 yards in the first four games before suffering a knee injury in Week 5. The 28-year-old has yet to get back on the field since hurting his knee in Dallas, but for the first time in weeks, he was able to practice. Golladay was limited in practice on Thursday and Friday, and appears to have a shot at suiting up for Sunday's game against the Raiders.
Las Vegas has allowed the ninth-fewest passing yards in the NFL, and a big reason for that has been the play of veteran cornerback Casey Hayward Jr. Hayward's 82.1 overall grade and 83.3 coverage grade are both the highest Pro Football Focus grades among cornerbacks. Rookie fifth-round pick Nate Hobbs is right behind his teammate with the second-highest coverage grade among corners at 81.8.
View photos from Thursday's practice as the Giants prepare for their Week 9 matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders.
GET BOOKER GOING
Due to his ankle injury, along with his temporary placement on the COVID list, Saquon Barkley appears to be headed towards his fourth consecutive game missed. With Barkley out, Devontae Booker has taken over as the team's lead back. Booker put together his strongest overall performance as a member of the Giants last week at Arrowhead Stadium, taking 15 carries for 60 yards (4.0 avg.) and adding five receptions for another 65 yards. The 125 total yards from scrimmage crushed his previous season-high of 69 (Week 6 vs. Rams). Booker spent the 2020 season with the Raiders.
While the Raiders' defense has played well this season, it has struggled at times against the run. Las Vegas ranks 28th in rushing yards and 24th in rushing touchdowns allowed per game this season. The unit has allowed 112+ rushing yards in six of seven games, and over 130 yards on the ground in five.
Derek Carr is in the midst of one of his strongest seasons since entering the NFL. Through seven games, the veteran quarterback has thrown for 2,269 yards, 12 touchdowns and five interceptions. His 324.1 passing yards per game ranks second in the league, as he has thrown for 320+ yards in five of seven games while tossing multiple touchdown passes in all but one contest. In Las Vegas' last game, Carr completed an incredible 91.2 percent of his passes (31 of 34) for 323 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for a passer rating of 113.6.
"He's got great command," defensive back Logan Ryan said of Carr. "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."
The Giants' defense did a good job against former league MVP Patrick Mahomes in Week 8, limiting him to a 60.4 completion percentage and 275 yards with just one touchdown and one interception, good for a passer rating of 74.6. James Bradberry and Adoree' Jackson are currently tied for the 10th-best PFF coverage grade among cornerbacks at 77.8.
Last year, Darren Waller caught an impressive 107 passes for 1,196 yards and nine touchdowns. While his numbers are not quite as high this season, the 6-foot-6 tight end has still proven he can take over a game. Waller has 33 receptions for 378 yards and two touchdowns, and is leading the team with 53 targets. Henry Ruggs is no longer on the roster, meaning Waller may be seeing an even bigger target share moving forward.
This is the second consecutive week in which the Giants are facing one of the league's top tight ends. During the Week 8 loss to the Chiefs, the Big Blue defense did a tremendous job of containing Kansas City's Travis Kelce. Kelce was held to just four receptions for 27 yards and a fumble, with Bradberry doing a great job of locking up the perennial All-Pro tight end for a lot of the game. Assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Patrick Graham told reporters that Bradberry will likely get another chance to shut down the opposing team's dominant tight end this week.
"When you get a chance to use a big corner on a tight end like that, sometimes the matchup plays out like that, whether we're matching him up or the alignments and we're trying to guess right," Graham said. "That could be advantageous for us as a defense when that happens. So, when you look at Waller this week, we'll probably have two to three people in man situations end up covering this guy, but I'm sure JB will get a chance at him at some point. Anytime you've got a big corner, their skillset working with receivers or going against receivers, and then you add that size element versus a tight end, I think it potentially helps us."
HEAD INTO BYE WEEK ON HIGH NOTE
This will be the Giants' final game before their bye week. Sitting at 2-6 on the season, securing a victory before the week off would be big for Joe Judge's squad. The difficult stretch of the team's schedule came in the first half of the season, as five of the Giants' final eight opponents currently sport records below .500, including two matchups against the Eagles and a rematch against Washington.
View rare photos of the history between the Giants and Raiders ahead of their Week 9 matchup.