Published Sunday, Nov. 5, 2023 | 2 a.m.
Updated 1 hour, 26 minutes ago
• Who: Giants (2-6) at Raiders (3-5)
• When: 1:25 p.m.
• Where: Allegiant Stadium
• TV: FOX
• Radio: Raider Nation Radio 920 AM, KOMP 92.3 FM
• Betting line: Raiders -1.5, over/under 37
All the Raiders’ star players are fully healthy and ready to play in interim coach Antonio Pierce’s debut today against the Giants. The same can’t be said for the role players.
Las Vegas will have four key injuries to navigate in the first game under the fourth coach since the franchise relocated — linebacker Divine Deablo, fullback Jakob Johnson, linebacker Luke Masterson and right tackle Thayer Munford.
The quartet missed practice all week with injuries and were just officially ruled out of today’s game at Allegiant Stadium by being included on the inactives list.
Deablo is missing his second straight game with an ankle injury, while Johnson and Masterson remain in the concussion protocol after taking hits in a Monday Night Football loss to the Lions.
Munford is listed with a neck injury and might be the most significant absence to overcome of the bunch. He had been rotating all year with Jermaine Eluemunor at his position, and playing as the extra blocker when the Raiders went into jumbo packages.
They won’t have that luxury today. Pierce’s first order of business will be showing he’s capable of overcoming a few thin spots on the roster.
Las Vegas’ other inactives are quarterback Brian Hoyer (meaning Jimmy Garoppolo will act as Aidan O’Connell’s backup), defensive tackle Byron Young and edge rusher Isaac Rochell.
A wild, franchise-altering week for the Las Vegas Raiders concludes with the New York Giants’ first-ever trip to Allegiant Stadium.
Las Vegas went into a Week 8 Monday Night Football game at Detroit hopeful, only one game out of a playoff spot and with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo set to return from an injury. But the Raiders left Ford Field demoralized after getting bludgeoned 26-14, with Garoppolo highly ineffective in completing only 10 of 21 passes for 126 yards.
Team owner Mark Davis had clearly seen enough, and acted the next night by firing coach Josh McDaniels, general manager Dave Ziegler and offensive coordinator Mick Lombardi only 25 games into their tenures. Davis announced that coach Antonio Pierce, general manager Champ Kelly and offensive coordinator Bo Hardegree would take over on an interim basis.
And they’ll be working with a new quarterback, as Garoppolo will be benched in favor of rookie fourth-round draft pick Aidan O’Connell beginning against the Giants. The “new mindset” the Raiders plan to employ, according to Pierce, gets an ideal spot to debut against a team that’s been the worst in the league by multiple measures this season. The Giants are last in the NFL with a -92 point differential and an average of 4.1 yards per play.
Favorable matchup: Raiders’ new-look offense vs. Giants’ defense
Uncertainty is always a disadvantage for NFL teams, and the Giants are dealing with a lot of it this week. There’s no way they can know exactly how the Raiders’ offense is going to look with Hardegree calling plays and O’Connell under center. Schematically, it probably won’t change much because there’s not enough time for wholesale changes in the middle of the season, especially on a short week coming off a Monday night game. But playcalling tendencies are a complete unknown, as the 39-year old Hardegree has never previously served as more than a quarterback coach throughout his professional career. O’Connell struggled in his first NFL start, a 24-17 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 4 when the rookie had three turnovers and took seven sacks. It therefore seems likely that Hardegree will try to craft an easier setup for the Purdue University product this time around. Does that mean a run-first mentality or an emphasis on the type of quick read-and-release passing plays that McDaniels didn’t often utilize? The Giants will have to identify the Raiders’ approach and adjust accordingly.
THEY SAID IT
“The short story, the matter of fact is, I grew up in Compton, Calif. I was born a Raider. I was born with the Raiders rolling in the Coliseum in L.A. I was rolling with NWA, talking Straight Out of Compton, rocking Raider hats.” -Pierce when asked what the head-coaching job of the Raiders means to him on a personal level
“Although the circumstances are not ideal, there’s always opportunity in difficulties…I promise you that I won’t squander the moment. Make no mistake, I’m prepared to be in this position.” -Kelly vowing to make the most of his appointment as interim general manager
“It does seem more fun in here but it’s all about how you take it. The energy is a little lighter.” -Cornerback Nate Hobbs on how the locker room has loosened up since the coaching change
“You can definitely change. He’s the OC now. He can create new plays or whatever. There’s a bunch of new things we can do. I don’t see us reinventing our offense, but I see us expanding our playbook.” -Wide receiver Adams when asked if the offense will be different under Hardegree
Problematic matchup: Giants’ running game vs. Raiders’ rush defense
The Raiders’ defense played much better than the offense against the Lions, but it still gave up a breakout performance to a dual-threat running back. Detroit rookie first-round draft pick Jahmyr Gibbs exploded for 187 combined rushing and receiving yards and a touchdown on 31 touches. Now Las Vegas goes up against one of the NFL’s most proven and electric running backs in Gibbs’ mold. The Giants fell 13-10 in overtime to the Jets last week, but it was no fault of running back Saquon Barkley, who ground out 128 rushing yards on 36 carries on a day when his team was historically inept passing the ball. Quarterbacks Tyrod Taylor, who suffered a rib injury early in the game, and undrafted rookie free agent Tommy DeVito combined for -9 passing yards, the worst mark in an NFL game in 25 years. Luckily for New York, starter Daniel Jones will return from a neck injury this week after missing the past three games. Jones has been a mediocre-at-best passer throughout his career, but the Giants reached the second round of the playoffs last year with a decent offense built around pairing his mobility with Barkley’s big-play ability.
Gamebreaker: Center Andre James
By his own admission, O’Connell was mostly to blame for all the sacks he took against the Chargers as a result of holding onto the ball too long. But the offensive line wasn’t great either, as even its best player, left tackle Kolton Miller, gave up four pressures and two sacks. The unit had its worst protection game of the year last week, ranking 30th in pass-blocking efficiency against the Lions by Pro Football Focus’ metrics. The Raiders have to be better at the line of scrimmage to give O’Connell a chance against the Giants. That goes for all their blockers, but James might be tasked with the most difficult matchup. New York nose tackle Dexter Lawrence is rated as the top defensive tackle in the league by PFF. Las Vegas will surely double him on virtually every play with James getting help from either left guard Dylan Parham or right guard Greg Van Roten, but it will be on the center to set the tone. There’s only so much O’Connell can do if he’s consistently disrupted, and Lawrence is more than capable of creating such havoc.
Big Number: 108.4
That was O’Connell’s passer rating in the preseason, the highest in the NFL. His success during the exhibition schedule is primarily what’s giving Raider fans hope that he could transcend his status as a mid-round pick and potentially even emerge as an option to be the team’s quarterback of the future. Some caution might be necessary, though. There’s been little correlation between quarterbacks’ preseason numbers and their regular-season ones over at least the past two decades. Facing other rookies, practice-squad players and training-camp bodies is a lot different than lining up against a field of starting-caliber professionals. O’Connell did carry over some of his preseason success into the Chargers game, though. He had the Raiders in position to tie the game at the 3-yard line near the end of regulation before throwing a costly interception. O’Connell seemed to settle in as the game went on and established a rapport with top receiver Davante Adams, who had eight catches for 75 yards and hasn’t topped that statistics line since. O’Connell’s three-step path to success is sparking Adams, minimizing his mistakes and getting into the rhythm he found in the preseason.
Best Bet (6-2): Davante Adams to score a touchdown
The lasting image of the Lions loss was Adams slamming his helmet on the bench in anger after Garoppolo missed him on a second straight deep ball when he was wide open. The star receiver now hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 3. He’s averaging only 43.5 receiving yards per game in the span. One of Pierce’s and Hardegree’s shared first courses of action will surely be to get Adams back on track. O’Connell could be the passer to do it, as their connection seems genuine, with Adams routinely speaking highly of the rookie’s potential. But the biggest reason for this bet is the price. It’s available at as high as +170 (i.e. risking $100 to win $170), which is too generous for a player whom the Raiders want to base their whole offense around. Adams’ “anytime touchdown” price dipped as low as +105 earlier in the season and was regularly in that range last year when he led the league with 14 receiving scores. Buy the dip against the Giants.