RAMS (5-2) VS. GIANTS (1-6)
SUNDAY, 1 P.M. ET, METLIFE STADIUM, EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. uTV: FOX, DIRECTV 709
Announcers: Kenny Albert, Ronde Barber, Kristina Pink About the Rams: An unexpectedly highscoring offense has received much of the publicity through the Rams’ surprisingly strong start — their best start since 2003 — but lately the defense has risen to a championship level. In its last three games, Los Angeles has allowed 275.3 yards and 11 points per game while recording 11 sacks and five interceptions. The Rams have allowed fewer than 20 points in all three of those games, culminating in a dominating shutout of Arizona to take them into their bye week.
About the Giants: The Giants come out of their bye week knowing that, for all intents and purposes, their season is over. And the storylines floating around are the ones familiar to losing teams — who’s to blame (GM
Jerry Reese fell on that grenade, but he surely has plenty of company), a coach ( Ben Mc
Adoo) on the hot seat and whether to bench aging QB Eli Manning in favor of third-round draft choice Davis Webb. The offense has been a disaster all season, ranking a dismal 30th in scoring at 16.0 points per game, and a defense featuring talent such as DT Damon Harrison, DE Jason Pierre-Paul, CB Jano
ris Jenkins and S Landon Collins hasn’t been nearly strong enough to make up for it. Matchup to watch: Rams DE Aaron Donald vs. Giants LT Ereck Flowers. Both were first-round draft choices who became starters as rookies, but that’s where the similarities end. Donald has grown into an often dominant force as a pass rusher and runstopper, while Flowers has struggled from Day 1 and is still a weak link on a weak line. Player to watch: Rams RB Todd Gurley. QB Jared Goff has earned praise for his improved play, but Gurley still is the key to the L.A. offense. He has been as productive as any player in the league this season — he entered his off week ranked No. 1 in touchdowns (8) and scoring for a non-kicker (48 points) and No. 2 in yards from scrimmage (131.4 per game), and he has rushed for more than 100 yards in four of his last five games. Number crunching: 10.6. Combine the league’s second-highest-scoring offense entering the week — 30.3 points per game — with a defense that allows less than 20 points per game and what do you get? A 10.6 points-pergame average margin of victory, the NFL’s largest. KEYS TO THE GAME 1. Greg the leg: For such a high-scoring team, the Rams score surprisingly few touchdowns — 17, to be exact, tied for 10th most. Their totals are bolstered by the league’s most prolific kicker. Greg Zuerlein, who leads the NFL with 84 points, has made 21 of 22 field goal attempts, including 10-for-10 from 40 yards and longer. 2. More special: Zuerlein isn’t all there is to the Rams’ special teams. KR Pharoh Cooper is second in the league at 30.9 yards per return and has a TD. The punt-coverage team ranks No. 2, allowing a mere 3.7 yards per return. As a result, the Rams’ average starting position of the 32-yard line is the NFL’s best. 3. Give the kid some help: Rookie TE Evan Engram has become a true playmaker for the Giants – but he’s the only one. Since the injuries to WRs Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard and Brandon Marshall, no one else has stepped forward. 4. Don’t quit: Last week Reese said it’s not time to sit Manning because “hopefully we can turn our season around.” While that isn’t likely, it’s important for the Giants to keep the season from becoming a death march.
Rams’ Aaron Donald JAE C. HONG, AP