OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) For the New York Giants, a season that started with so much promise has turned to utter disappointment and the franchise has already started planning for 2018 even though there’s still a month left in this regular season.
The season has gone only marginally better for Oakland, but in the mediocre AFC that’s still enough to keep the Raiders in contention.
The Raiders (5-6) head into Sunday’s matchup with the Giants (2-9) that features two of the league’s biggest flops this season just one game out of first place in the AFC West thanks to a major slump by Kansas City.
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”We’re just scratching and clawing and trying to do everything we can to get the next win,” coach Jack Del Rio said. ”Our margin for error has really been eliminated.”
The Giants have little to play for and have already started planning for the future this week by benching two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Eli Manning after 210 consecutive starts in order to get the opportunity to take a look at Geno Smith on Sunday and rookie Davis Webb down the road.
It’s a decision that was extremely unpopular in New York among fans who remember Manning’s Super Bowl success and former players upset about the treatment of one of the franchise’s most important players.
”The decision is bigger than me. It’s for the organization and the future of the organization, making sure we have a clear evaluation of the other two quarterbacks on the roster,” coach Ben McAdoo said.
”Sometimes you have to be the punching bag, and right now I’m the punching bag. That goes with the territory. I have thick skin and I can handle it.”
The decision to bench Manning for a quarterback who flamed out with the New York Jets and has started just one game the past three seasons had some critics saying the Giants were tanking the rest of the season to get a better draft pick.
That’s a charge that co-owner John Mara found insulting.
”I would never allow that here,” he said. ”We’re going to try to win the games. We’re just going to have to try to do it with a different guy at quarterback.
Here are some other things to watch:
WHERE ARE THE WIDEOUTS?: The Raiders will likely be without both starting receivers this week with Michael Crabtree serving a one-game suspension for fighting last week with Denver’s Aqib Talib and Amari Cooper likely sidelined by a concussion and sprained ankle.
Things are even worse for the Giants, who have already lost starters Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall to season-ending injuries
TOP TARGET: The absence of Crabtree and Cooper gave backups Cordarrelle Patterson and Johnny Holton a chance to shine in last week’s win over Denver and both delivered big plays.
But against the Giants, the main target in the passing game could be tight end Jared Cook, who is tied for the team lead with Cooper and Crabtree with 42 catches. The Giants have struggled all season to guard tight ends, allowing an NFL-worst 10 TD catches so far this season.
MIGRAINES GONE: Smith apparently will be getting slot receiver Sterling Shepard back for Sunday’s game. He missed the past two games with migraines. He had had migraines as a child but this recent one would not go away.
”I would wake up thinking like it would be better and I was stuck there for 10 days straight. It was like being stuck in a hangover, plus a headache.” Shepard is second on the team with 38 catches for 475 yards and a touchdown despite missing four games.
NEW-LOOK D: The Raiders fired defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. last week and replaced him as play-caller with John Pagano. It paid off with Oakland recording a season-high five sacks and getting its first interception of the season. But the Raiders did allow two TD drives in the fourth quarter and Trevor Siemian replaced an ineffective Paxton Lynch.
”The defense looks like it simplified what they’re doing, playing a little faster,” McAdoo said.
MARA BASHING: The Giants’ decision to bench two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning drew some criticism from outgoing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. The longtime Dallas Cowboys fans ripped Mara, who serves as co-owner of the team with Steve Tisch.
”I think the manner in which this was handled and the manner in which Eli Manning is being treated by the Giants’ organization is disgraceful,” Christie said Wednesday.
”I think Mr. Mara should be ashamed of himself for having signed off on this. We already know their general manager and their coach are incompetent and we don’t expect any better from them. But the fans here pay a lot of money for tickets at MetLife Stadium and I would expect better of the Mara family.”
AP Sports Writer Tom Canavan in East Rutherford, New Jersey, contributed to this report
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