It was Halloween night when Raiders owner Mark Davis pulled the plug on his head coach with hopes of energizing a flatlining franchise. Josh McDaniels wore the costume of an offensive wizard, but he was neither that nor an inspirational leader during his 1½ years in Las Vegas.
A change was needed, sooner or later, and Davis opted for sooner. The timing of the coaching switch was bizarre, but so is Davis, who will be praised for the move if the Raiders play with fire and respond by beating the Giants on Sunday.
Antonio Pierce, the interim coach, is a former Pro Bowl linebacker and Super Bowl champion with the Giants. Pierce will get a great effort out of his players, including wide receiver Davante Adams, who said, “I’m already ready to run through a wall for that man.”
The offense is Las Vegas’ big question mark. Aidan O’Connell, a rookie fourth-round draft pick, will start as veteran quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo goes to the bench. O’Connell, a more accurate passer and better deep-ball thrower than Garoppolo, will be better in his second start than he was in his first, a 24-17 loss to the Chargers in Los Angeles in Week 4. He’ll be wise to get Adams more involved, early and often.
The irony is O’Connell was scouted and developed by McDaniels, who called plays for the NFL’s 30th-ranked scoring offense (15.8 ppg). The Raiders' offense has failed to score 20 points in any of the eight games, so it’s tough to bank on that changing with a rookie QB and new play caller.
While it’s fair to be skeptical of a Raiders team in disarray and whether a new attitude is enough to merit a bet, the Giants are nothing special. New York (2-6) sits in last in the NFC East and ranks last in the league in scoring offense (11.9 ppg).
Hitting the reset button should pay off for the Raiders, who will play hard for Pierce and try to prove Davis made the right move.
Pick: Raiders -1.5
Four more plays for Week 9 (home team in CAPS):
Dolphins (+2) over Chiefs
In their first two heavyweight fights away from home, the Dolphins were roughed up in double-digit losses to the Bills and Eagles, so they go to Germany with a point to prove. Miami leads the league in scoring offense at 33.9 ppg, more than 10 points better than Kansas City (23.4). There is an obvious disconnect between Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and his young group of receivers. Mahomes will try to lean on tight end Travis Kelce, as usual, and that makes Dolphins defensive coordinator Vic Fangio a key figure in this matchup. Fangio, a former Broncos coach, knows the Kansas City offense well from their meetings in the AFC West and Fangio should have a good plan for containing Kelce.
PACKERS (-3) over Rams
Green Bay, which has lost four in a row, has scored a total of only 40 points in the past three games while quarterback Jordan Love slumps. The Packers are due for a breakout game and their urgency level will be high. It’s also a good time to catch the Rams, who could be without quarterback Matthew Stafford because of a thumb injury. Green Bay’s defense is solid, a fact that has been overlooked, and I stubbornly contend the Packers are better than their 2-5 record.
PATRIOTS (-2.5) over Commanders
If the good Mac Jones shows up, New England will be in good shape. In his most recent home start, Jones completed 25 of 30 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns (with no interceptions and one sack) in a 29-25 upset of the Bills in Week 7, when Jones outplayed Josh Allen. Washington was a seller at the trade deadline, making two moves that weakened its defensive front. The Commanders rank 31st in scoring defense (28.5 ppg). The line is -3 at most books, but DraftKings dropped the number to 2.5, so I’ll lay it. (And remember my prediction that Bill Belichick will be Washington’s coach next season.)
Cowboys (+3) over EAGLES
The pressure is on Dallas and quarterback Dak Prescott to deliver in a big game. Prescott has posted an 8-3 record against the Eagles, winning three in a row with 11 touchdown passes and one interception. The Philadelphia defense allowed 472 yards to the Commanders last week, with injuries starting to pile up. Prescott and the Cowboys can take advantage of the Eagles’ struggling pass defense, so take the field goal with the divisional ‘dog.