By Shawn Lealos
The Oakland Raiders (6-6) followed up their big divisional win over the Denver Broncos last week with a victory over the struggling New York Giants (2-10) in Week 13. The win was expected, despite the Raiders’ recent struggles, because New York benched their future Hall of Fame quarterback, Eli Manning, for Geno Smith, with the two-win Giants seemingly ready to look forward to the 2018 NFL Draft. It went as expected, with the Raiders winning the game 24-17, a score that looks closer than it really was. Here is a look at the Oakland Raiders’ team grades for this week’s big win.
For much of the 2017 NFL season, offseason free agent signing Marshawn Lynch has been a disappointment. However he hasn’t been as much of a downgrade from last year’s Raiders’ rushing leader, Latavius Murray, as some people thought. By the 12th week of the 2016 NFL season, Murray had run for 471 yards and nine touchdowns. In the same time frame this season, Lynch has run for 457 yards and five touchdowns. However, Murray had one 100-yard game by Week 13, and Lynch finally eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the first time this season against the Giants. Lynch ran for 101 yards and caught two passes for 20 yards. He also ran for his sixth touchdown of the year.
With Lynch pounding the ball hard into the Giants defense (DeAndre Washington also ran for a touchdown), it opened up the game for quarterback Derek Carr. This is a good thing, because the Raiders were missing their top two receivers. Michael Crabtree was suspended for this game while Amari Cooper is in the concussion protocol. Despite that, Carr finished with 287 passing yards and a touchdown without throwing an interception. His leading receivers included Cordarrelle Patterson, who caught four balls for 97 yards, and Seth Roberts, who hauled in six passes for 46 yards. Johnny Holton also caught seven balls for 39 yards and scored a touchdown through the air. Clive Walford caught four passes and tight end Jared Cook caught five balls.
The Raiders defense got a break last week against the struggling Broncos, and caught another one this week when they played the Giants and Geno Smith. However, while the defense held the Giants to just seven points for three quarters, New York scored 10 points in the fourth quarter and almost came back to spoil the Raiders’ win. Geno Smith, one of the lowest-rated quarterbacks in the NFL since he arrived, threw for 212 yards and one touchdown without throwing an interception. He also ran for 13 yards to keep drives alive.
Oakland did record three sacks, with Bruce Irvin, Khalil Mack and Denico Autry each recording one. While the Raiders didn’t record an interception, they did force two fumbles from Smith, with Mack recovering one of them.
Tight end Evan Engram was the top receiver for the Giants, pulling in eight balls for 99 yards and a touchdown. The Raiders defense did shut down the running game, as leading back Orleans Darkwa carried the ball 14 times for only 32 yards, although he did score a touchdown on the ground.
Special Teams: A
The kicking game in Oakland played a good game as well. Giorgio Tavecchio didn’t miss a kick this game, hitting a 39-yard field goal and all three extra points. Marquette King also continued his All-Pro season, punting the ball four times and putting two inside the 20 while sending a third into the end zone. His longest punt went 62 yards and his average was an impressive 50 yards per punt. The return game was average, with three kick returns for 46 yards and four punt returns for 23 yards.
Jack Del Rio came into the Raiders game with the Giants knowing that he was without his two top weapons in the passing game. He added in a lot of run plays, and Marshawn Lynch paid off the trust by running for 100 yards. The defense still struggled at times, but new defensive coordinator John Pagano has the Raiders playing well enough to win, even against lesser competition. However, next week is the biggest test for the Raiders coaching staff this season.
Up Next: Kansas City Chiefs
The Oakland Raiders’ win over the New York Giants move them into a three-way tie for first place in the AFC West. The Kansas City Chiefs (6-6) are on a four-game losing streak and the Raiders play them on the road next Sunday. A win would move Oakland ahead of the Chiefs in the division with three games remaining in the NFL season, and a chance to secure a playoff spot despite early season struggles.