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Fact or Fiction: Key matchups & predictions for Week 9


The crew is presented with four statements and must decide whether they are Fact or Fiction.

Kayvon Thibodeaux will have another sack on Sunday to add to his total of 8.5 in his first eight games.

John Schmeelk: Fiction – I'll play the odds for a second consecutive week. Thibodeaux had three pressures last week and converted all three into sacks. His pressure-to-sack conversion rate is extremely high and is bound to regress a little bit. If Thibodeaux lines up over the left tackle this week, he will draw Kolton Miller, who is one of the best left tackles in all of football. On the left side of the defensive line, he'll get to go against 2022 seventh-round pick Thayer Munford, which could provide more opportunities. He will also be helped by rookie quarterback Aidan O'Connell.

Dan Salomone: Fact – Ride the hot hand. His 8.5 sacks is the highest total by a Giants player through eight games since Jason Pierre-Paul had 9.5 in 2011.

Lance Medow: Fiction – The Raiders have surrendered 22 sacks through eight games, 10th-most in the NFL, but Jimmy Garoppolo has taken the bulk of them (13). Las Vegas is now turning to rookie Aidan O'Connell, who has been sacked seven times in two appearances this season, but all seven came in one game against the Chargers when veteran pass rusher Khalil Mack had a field day with six. The sample size is very small with O'Connell under center and the team will also have a new play-caller, who I think will emphasize getting rid of the ball quickly and highlighting the ground attack.

Matt Citak: Fact – Thibodeaux has been on an absolute tear lately. After going without a sack in the first two games, the second-year outside linebacker has recorded all 8.5 of his sacks in the last six contests, including 4.5 the last two weeks. Thibodeaux has picked up 14 total pressures over the last three games, according to PFF, and he should be able to keep it going against the Raiders. Las Vegas allowed six sacks to the Lions Monday night, and in his one start this season, rookie QB Aidan O'Connell was sacked seven times. Thibodeaux, Dexter Lawrence and the rest of the pass rush should be able to hit home Sunday.

Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley will combine for at least 30 rushing attempts.

John Schmeelk: Fact – The Raiders have struggled stopping the run this season. They've allowed the third-most rushing yards per game this season (140.6) and the most 10+ yard runs. I expect Saquon Barkley to get 25 carries in the game, and whether through scrambles or designed rushing attempts from Jones, the team should get to 30.

Dan Salomone: Fact – Brian Daboll made it clear there would be no limitations on Daniel Jones as he comes back from a three-game absence due to the neck injury. Meanwhile, Barkley has been rolling while shouldering a heavy workload.

Lance Medow: Fiction – Both the Giants and Raiders have struggled to put points on the board this season as their scoring offenses rank in the bottom three of the league. Rookie Aidan O'Connell is only making his second career start for Las Vegas and Daniel Jones is coming off a three-game absence due to a neck injury. It would make sense for both teams to lean heavily on the ground game, but the question is how much they want Jones to run. Barkley could easily have 20 to 25 carries, but does Jones get to at least six or seven? He's had three games this season with at least nine runs but that was before the injury. I think he'll get more into the four to five range so I'll say their total will fall below 30.

Matt Citak: Fact – The last time Jones and Barkley were on the field together was Week 2, when they combined for 26 attempts, 17 of which came from Barkley. But since returning from his ankle injury, Barkley has averaged 27 rush attempts per game. While that number might drop a bit now that Jones is back in the lineup, it likely won't be by much. The way to attack the Raiders defense is on the ground (30th in rushing yards allowed per game), and the Giants' game plan will likely revolve around attacking that.

View photos of every move made by the Giants during the 2023 cycle.

Deonte Banks vs. Davante Adams is the key matchup for Sunday.

John Schmeelk: Fiction – I only say this because I don't think that Deonte Banks is going to be left on an island against Davante Adams for much of this game. One of the key things Antonio Pierce said at his introductory press conference was that he was going to make sure his best players got the football, and it is going to start with Davante Adams. I would expect Wink Martindale to bracket or put a safety over the top on Adams for much of the game, forcing Jakobi Meyers and Hunter Renfrow to beat them.

Dan Salomone: Fact – It will be a group effort, but the rookie cornerback continues to rise to the occasion. This will be another measuring stick for the first-round draft choice.

Lance Medow: Fiction – Davante Adams is coming off a game in which he only had one reception, so I'm sure they're going to look to get him the ball. But if there's one game-wrecker on the entire Raiders roster, it's pass rusher Maxx Crosby, who seems to be omnipresent. He has a team-high 6.5 sacks and ten quarterback hits and is tied for second in the NFL with 10 tackles for loss. If you don't handle Crosby well, he'll make you pay so whoever lines up against him on the offensive line is the matchup to watch repeatedly.

Matt Citak: Fiction – The matchup between Banks and Adams is certainly one to keep a close eye on Sunday. However, the key matchup has got to be between Maxx Crosby and whoever starts at the tackle positions for the Giants. Daboll told the media Wednesday that both Andrew Thomas and Evan Neal have a chance to return this weekend. Whether or not they suit up, whoever it is that does start at the two tackle positions will have to make it their top priority to keep Crosby off of Daniel Jones.

The Giants' defense will record multiple interceptions.

John Schmeelk: Fact – The Giants don't generally force many interceptions, but against a rookie quarterback, I think they get on the board twice this week. Wink Martindale's blitz schemes and disguises both up front and in the secondary could confuse the rookie quarterback. O'Connell is a fairly accurate pocket passer with a lot of experience throwing the ball in college, but he has never seen anything like that Wink Martindale will throw at him on Sunday.

Dan Salomone: Fiction – Two interceptions is tough to bank on in any NFL game, but two total turnovers might not be out of the question. The Giants will be facing a team with a rookie quarterback, interim head coach, and interim offensive coordinator.

Lance Medow: Fiction – We're going with the fiction sweep this week. The Raiders have thrown 13 interceptions this season, but Jimmy Garoppolo is responsible for nine of them and he won't be in the starting lineup this weekend. Aidan O'Connell has been picked off twice in two appearances, but there's only so much you can read into that given the volume of snaps he's played. The Giants have collected four interceptions, but they've only had two in a single game once this season against the Dolphins in Week 5. They've been consistent at recording takeaways lately but that doesn't mean it will come in the form of multiple picks.

Matt Citak: Fiction – The defense has registered a turnover in each of the last four games after not having a single one in the first four weeks of the season. On top of that, the unit has had multiple takeaways in three of those four games. I expect that to continue on Sunday, as the Raiders' 16 offensive turnovers are tied for the second-most in the NFL, but it may not come in the form of multiple interceptions. While the defense could have an interception of O'Connell, chances are it's the pass rush that comes up with a strip-sack or two of the rookie quarterback that gets the defense to multiple turnovers.

View rare photos of the history between the Giants and Raiders ahead of their Week 9 matchup.