The Giants are riding a two-game winning streak, finally getting key guys healthy and are facing an Raiders team that is coming off 49-20 drubbing to the Eagles. So it may seem like Big Blue is primed for an easy win.
But to a man, the Giants (2-6) are preparing for the Raiders (3-5) as if they’re one of the best teams in the league, believing Oakland possesses enough talent on both sides of the ball to give Big Blue a real test.
“We haven’t played the Raiders in a little bit of time, so we’ve been in an extended study of this team. They obviously, with [Terrelle] Pryor as a quarterback, have a whole new dimension in terms of their offensive football. He has tremendous speed, tremendous ability and a strong arm,” said head coach Tom Coughlin. “They do run an option style offense with him [and] he may average 10 to 12 runs per game and of course he had the longest run in NFL history by a quarterback [last week] against the Steelers. ... And they have an outstanding receiver corps that’s capable of going deep. They have a fast team and so they’re a team that appears on the rise, they’re very challenging and we look forward to the preparation.”
Coughlin then went on to further pump up a Raiders’ defense that has been solid mostly all season, save for Eagles’ quarterback Nick Foles’s seven-touchdown performance.
“They have 10 new starters on the defensive side of the ball, but they’re very physical and very aggressive,” Coughlin said about an Oakland defense that is allowing 24.8 points allowed but is ranked sixth in the league against the run. “I, quite frankly, don’t pay a whole lot of attention to the Philadelphia game. Their defense has played much, much better than that. They are a good defensive team, have outstanding leadership in [safety Charles] Woodson in the back end there, who’s seen it all, and who has been a very good leader and contributor to their defensive style.”
Oakland’s 24th-ranked pass defense took a pounding against the Eagles but for Giants quarterback Eli Manning, it doesn’t mean Big Blue will be able to push around the Raiders as easily.
“They’ve played very good defense for six of the games. Obviously last week was a little tough, but besides that, not many teams have scored over 20 points on them,” said Manning. “They don’t give up many big plays and so they do a good job of keeping things underneath and making tackles and kind of make you have long drives and be patient. ... They do a good job of mixing up different coverages and getting pressure on the quarterback and doing a number of different looks.”
Manning hopes to have wideout Victor Cruz in the lineup to help break down the Raiders’ defense. The electric wideout has practiced sporadically all week, but was on the field for Thursday’s session after missing Wednesday’s practice with a sore neck. The malady is from a big hit Cruz took in the win over the Eagles two weeks ago.
Cruz, who was limited in practice and wearing a red noncontact jersey, said he’s confident he’ll suit up in Sunday’s matchup and is looking forward to the challenge of trying to break down Oakland’s 24th-ranked secondary.
“There’s no concern at all [about missing the Raiders game]. I sat out [Wednesday] just for some precautionary stuff,” said Cruz. “But I took the day to heal and rebuild, [I] feel better today and am starting to feel better about myself. ... I’ve put in the work today, will do so tomorrow and take that into the weekend and Sunday.”
Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said he’s absolutely counting on Cruz being in the lineup and looking like his old self, as much as he’s looking forward to seeing an amped-up Raiders squad that is seeking a bounce-back performance.
“I just don’t think you can count on that on a regular basis,” Gilbride said, recounting last week’s horrific performance by the Raiders.
“They did some things that were very uncharacteristic in turning some guys free. To be quite honest with you, they’re a very impressive unit,” Gilbride continued. “They’ve got a very extensive and complex blitz package that we’re going to have to be as sharp as we’ve been all year in order to deal with it, so hopefully our guys are ready for the challenge. ... It reminds me some of that New Orleans Greg Williams’s defense. It’s a very sophisticated and comprehensive package. They do a nice job. They really do.”
Big Blue notes ...
»The Giants officially placed running back David Wilson (neck) and defensive tackle Shaun Rogers (knee) on season-ending injured reserve (IR). Taking their place on the active 53-man roster are running back Andre Brown and defensive tackle Markus Kuhn. Brown was activated off the designated-to-return IR, while Kuhn was taken off the physically unable to perform list.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.