NFL Preview - Oakland (3-5) at NY Giants (2-6)
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - The first step in getting out of a hole is to stop digging.
The New York Giants have quietly done that and will now search for their third straight win after a dismal 0-6 start as they begin a key stretch of three consecutive home games against the Oakland Raiders.
The Giants allowed nearly 35 points per game during their worst start in 37 years, but the defense turned it around before the bye week by stymieing a dismal Minnesota team, 23-7, and then topping NFC East-rival Philadelphia, 15-7, on the road.
Neither score in those two contests was allowed by Big Blue's defense.
"Are we back?" safety Antrel Rolle asked.
"We'll be back once we reach that postseason. That's when I'll say that we're back. Right now we're grinding. We're pushing ahead and more importantly we're staying together."
The postseason is still a long shot even in the lightly-regarded NFC East as no 0-6 team in the Super Bowl era has ever rebounded to reach the playoffs. New York remains in last place in the division and is 2 1/2 games south of frontrunning Dallas heading into Week 10.
"All we can worry about is getting back to playing well and get on a hot streak and start winning games," quarterback Eli Manning said. "It's all about us. We can only control what we can do. If we are winning, we'll give ourselves a shot."
Josh Brown kicked a career-high five goals in the City of Brotherly Love back on Oct. 27 as the Giants shut down a punchless Eagles offense en route to the 15-7 victory at Lincoln Financial Field.
With rookie Matt Barkley pressed into quarterback duty for much of the game, the Eagles mustered just 201 total yards and failed to produce an offensive touchdown.
The Eagles' lone score came on a 2-yard fumble return by reserve linebacker Najee Goode in the fourth quarter, the result of a bad snap that soared over the head of New York punter Steve Weatherford.
Manning threw for 246 yards on 25-of-39 passing to help the Giants halt an eight-game road losing streak. Victor Cruz contributed 86 yards on seven catches, while New York's defense generated four sacks after amassing an NFL-low six over the team's first seven outings.
"It's not always pretty, but nevertheless our defense played superbly," Giants head coach Tom Coughlin remarked. "There is a lot to be said for the way we are playing right now on defense."
The Raiders last opponent was also the Eagles in Week 9 but they faced a much different version of the Birds as Nick Foles returned under center for the first time in two weeks, and enjoyed his finest day as a professional.
The Arizona product shook off the effects of a concussion and tied an NFL record by throwing seven touchdown passes, including four in the first half, en route to a career-high 406 yards on 22-of-28 completions in Philadelphia's 49-20 rout of Oakland in an inter-conference clash.
Foles joined Joe Kapp, Sid Luckman, George Blanda, Y.A. Tittle, Peyton Manning and former Eagles QB Adrian Burk for the honor.
Terrelle Pryor was 22-of-41 for 288 yards and a pair of interceptions before bowing out late with a knee injury for the Raiders (3-5), who surrendered the most points in one contest since a 55-20 drubbing at the hands of the Ravens on Nov. 11, 2012.
"It's embarrassing," Pryor said. "I hate losing. It's not acceptable to me and I don't like it. All the guys in here agree with me. We have to do something about it instead of tanking it."
Matt McGloin ended up 7-of-15 for 87 yards in relief.
Oakland's scoring consisted of two Sebastian Janikowski field goals along with an 8-yard TD run from Rashad Jennings and a late 2-yard score by Jeremy Stewart. Jennings wound up with 102 yards on 15 carries and 74 yards on seven catches.
The Raiders lead their all-time series with New York by a 7-4 margin but the Giants won the last encounter, a 44-7 blowout in North Jersey back on Oct. 11, 2009.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Manning will be starting his 144th consecutive game, the longest active streak by a signal caller in the NFL. His last effort against the Raiders was one of his best as a pro, an efficient 8-of-10 performance or 173 yards with two TDs and a perfect 158.3 passer rating. That of course is ironic because Oakland allowed another perfect passer mark last week to Philadelphia's Foles in the ugly 49-20 setback.
Manning, though, has been anything but perfect in 2013, completing only 55.7 percent of his passes with an NFL-worst 15 interceptions. If New York has any intention of really making a run at the NFC East crown, the two-time Super Bowl MVP has to start carrying his own water.
The fact that Oakland allowed 542 yards - the fourth-worst mark in franchise history - against Philadelphia a week ago is an indication Manning will have plenty of opportunities to make things happen down the field.
"They do a good job of mixing up different coverages and getting pressure on the quarterback and doing a number of different looks," Manning said when talking about the now-maligned Raiders defense.
In truth Oakland had been playing well on that side of the ball until Foles lit them up, something head coach Dennis Allen hopes is an anomaly.
"There's no question there's a bad taste in our mouth right now," Allen said. "But that one's over with. I don't know if we were reading our press clippings or what, but the NFL is all about what have you done for me lately and what do you do out there on Sunday."
Offensively the Raiders rely on Pryor and their running game, which ranks first in the AFC at 147.8 yards per game.
Pryor, a first-year starter, is inconsistent and will turn it over but leads all NFL quarterbacks with 485 rushing yards this season and needs just 45 more to surpass Rich Gannon (529 in 2000) for the most ever by an Oakland signal caller. He threw for a career-high in passing yards before leaving against the Eagles and added 94 yards on the ground.
Pryor leads the NFL with 7.7 yards per rush and is adept at extending plays and a threat to make a big splash with his arm or legs at any time.
Gap control and defensive discipline is key when combating Pryor and the read- option. A balky knee, though, may slow Pryor a bit and help the Giants corral him.
"Terrelle Pryor is a great quarterback, we just have to go out there and do what we do best, stop this run," Giants end Jason Pierre-Paul said. "My big boy (defensive tackle) Shaun Rogers is going to stop that run with me and we're going to get it cracking. We need this win. We have to help ourselves, we got ourselves in this hole."
The Giant winning streak strikes many as fool's gold but it should continue here. Oakland has dropped 10 of 11 road games dating back to the start of last season, including seven straight by an average of nearly 16 points per contest.
"We're going to have a great preparation this week and hopefully we can go out there and get our home crowd into the game quickly and play well," Manning said.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Giants 21, Raiders 17
11/07 12:43:37 ET