By Paul Dottino
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It’s hard to imagine how a game during the first week of November can be identified as a “must win,” but the Giants are facing what are – for all practical purposes – three “must win” games in a row.
They’ll start this three-game homestand with the Oakland Raiders (3-5), with the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys waiting in the wings.
The Raiders are coming off an embarrassing 49-20 home loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, who got an NFL-record tying seven TD passes out of Nick Foles. A film review showed two of those scores were the result of a fallen defensive back, two were the result of busted coverage and the other three were because their defenders were beaten.
Here are three keys to watch in the game:
1. Raiders QB Terrelle Pryor vs. Giants linebackers. Pryor leads NFL quarterbacks with 485 rushing yards. He’s also averaging 7.7 yards per carry. Several Giants defenders said they believe he’s the fastest quarterback in the league – and if you don’t believe them, ask the Pittsburgh Steelers. Pryor hit them for a 93-yard TD burst, the longest run by a quarterback in NFL history. Oakland has designed several running plays for him, besides the option-read. When scrambling, Pryor prefers to tuck away the ball and run as soon as he sees his first option covered. MLB Jon Beason, OLB Jacquian Williams and S Will Hill – the speedsters in the heart of the back seven likely will share the primary responsibility of making sure Pryor does not find an open lane that he can accelerate through.
2. Giants WRs Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz vs. Raiders FS Charles Woodson. The Raiders have allowed opponents to complete 69 percent of their passes, the highest in the NFL, but only 11.6 yards per completion – this indicates they are willing to give up plenty of short- and medium-range throws. They’ve also allowed 17 TDs through the air. Woodson, the secondary’s leader, gambles when he goes to help the corners as often as possible to make a big play, but he no longer has the recovery speed necessary to reverse his field when he guesses wrong. Nicks still is looking for his first touchdown grab of the season – he should get it this week.
3. Giants RBs Peyton Hillis and Andre Brown vs. Raiders LBs Nick Roach and and Kevin Burnett. The Meadowlands winds are expected to be gusting at about 20 mph, which means each offense would be wise to play the wind, depending upon the direction they are heading in. So it will be critical for the Giants to continue to develop their power running game while they are fighting the current. Roach and Burnett lead a very active and quick front seven that has helped Oakland rank sixth against the rush (95 yards per game). The Raiders allow just 3.8 yard per carry.
PREDICTION: Giants 27, Raiders 17
PREDICTION RECORD VS. THE SPREAD: 6-2
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