Oakland Raiders take on the New York Giants with QB Geno Smith (not Eli Manning) at quarterback

New York Giants quarterback Geno Smith speaks with reporters at the NFL football team’s training facility, Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017, in East Rutherford, N.J. The Giants announced on Tuesday that Smith will start in place of Eli Manning when they face the Raiders in Oakland on Sunday. (AP Photo/Tom Canavan)

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
SRS Contributor

OAKLAND — Sunday’s matchup between the Raiders and Giants at 1:25 p.m. PT will begin a stretch where the Silver and Black will play three of their next four games against NFC East opponents, with the Raiders hosting the Dallas Cowboys on December 17 and then travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles on Dec ember 25. Oakland lost to Washington in Week 3 to start the NFC East portion of their schedule.

This will be the first time the Giants have played at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum since 2005.

Oakland (5-6) defeated the visiting Denver Broncos in Week 12 by a score of 21-14 in a game that the Raiders desperately needed to keep their playoff chances alive in the AFC. Oakland’s much maligned defense was the fuel that drove the Raiders to victory, holding the Broncos to just 219 yards of total offense and registering five sacks, two apiece by defensive lineman Denico Autry and linebacker Bruce Irvin.

Defensive end Khalil Mack recorded his 10th career sack against Denver, the most for Mack against any team in the league. Linebacker NaVorro Bowman collected Oakland’s first interception of the season, picking off Broncos starting quarterback Paxton Lynch in the end zone, stalling Denver’s scoring opportunity.

As a unit, the defense held Denver scoreless through three quarters before the Broncos scored 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. Oakland held Denver to 5-of-14 on third-down and made starting drives difficult for the Broncos as punter Marquette King pinned Denver inside their own 10-yard line four times.

Raiders starting quarterback Derek Carr had one of his better games of the season, throwing for 253 yards and two touchdowns on 18-of-24 passes while posting a 136.3 quarterback rating. Carr completed passes to nine different Raider receivers on the day. Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson led all pass catchers with three receptions for 72 yards, including a 54-yard reception late in the fourth quarter to ice the game for Oakland.

Running back Marshawn Lynch had his best game by far for Oakland, racking up 111 yards of total offense (67 rushing and 44 receiving) with one touchdown.

The New York Giants (2-9) have had a tumultuous season to say the least.  A team that many prognosticators predicted would be a Super Bowl favorite in the NFC, has been a dumpster fire this season. Both of Big Blue’s wins came against teams from the AFC West, defeating Denver in Week 6, 23-10, and the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime, 12-9 in Week 11.

New York is coming off a 20-10 loss in Washington on Thanksgiving night to begin Week 12.

Injuries are part of the game, and the Giants have had the injury bug hit them the hardest with 16 players on injured reserve this season.

Wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall were lost for the season with leg injuries, the offensive line has been shuffled more times than a deck of playing cards, and the defense which was the team’s strength last season finishing in the top-10 in total defense, has slipped to 22nd this season.

And now the unthinkable has happened: The Giants are benching franchise quarterback Eli Manning, a move that has come under heavy scrutiny by many in sports media and professional sports since the Giants announced the move Tuesday.

Manning will be on the sideline when backup Geno Smith takes the field for the Giants, snapping a string of 210 consecutive starts for the two-time Super Bowl MVP. On the season, Manning has thrown for 2,411 yards with 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions with a 84.1 passer rating in 11 games.

But clearly with Manning’s benching, the Giants are aggressively turning the page on the Manning era and the Raiders could be the beneficiaries Sunday with the Giants starting Smith. Smith was an average quarterback in five seasons with the Jets before signing with the Giants in the offseason.

But Smith has had some success against the Raiders and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

In three games against the Silver and Black, Smith has a passer rating of 91.8, his second-highest against any team in his career, according to Josh Dubow of the Associated Press. Smith is 2-1 against Oakland all-time, throwing for 705 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions in those contests.

Rookie tight end Evan Engram is key for New York’s passing offense. Engram leads the Giants with 44 receptions for 470 yards (10.7 avg.) and five touchdowns, tied for the most among rookies this season. Running back Orleans Darkwa powers the Giants’ ground game, rushing for 519 yards (4.6 avg.) on 112 carries and two touchdowns, all career highs.

Defensively for the Giants, eighth-year defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul has 6.5 of the teams 20 sacks, while safety Landon Collins leads the team with 86 tackles (64 solo). Cornerback Janoris Jenkins leads the team with three interceptions, returning two of them for touchdowns to lead the NFL. Jenkins was placed on season-ending injured reserve this week with an ankle injury.

After Sunday’s game, the Raiders will travel to Kansas City to face the Chiefs in a critical divisional game. The Silver and Black already hold a victory over the Chiefs after defeating Kansas City 31-30 back in Week 7 in Oakland.

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