Overview: On paper, this is a mismatch as much as two touchdowns favor the Los Angeles Rams. At the risk of bringing up painful memories, that is roughly the same margin as the Rams were favored by in Super Bowl XVI…and we know how THAT turned out.
OK, some rather "unique" interpretations of the rules in that game favored the New England Patriots, which hopefully won't be the case on Sunday. I also don't see a Tom Brady or Bill Belichick on the New York Giants sidelines. But the point is, this is the NFL, and you never want to take anyone lightly. Upsets happen every weekend on "Any Given Sunday!"
Coaching: Rams Head Coach Sean McVay has been on a roll this season. The Giants head coach is Joe Judge, and their OC is former Cowboys Coach Jason Garrett.
Need I say more?
Rams Offense vs. Giants Defense: The Rams have been clicking on this side of the ball, thanks in large part to a resurgent running game. Rookie running back Cam Akers will miss another game because of a rib injury, but second-year running back Darrell Henderson is an emerging star. He's coming off a 114-yard rushing performance against an outstanding Bills defense. The Giants rushing defense is 20th in the league, giving up an average of 123 yards per game on the ground. The Rams are averaging 170 yards per game on the ground, good for fourth in the NFL. If Henderson and Malcolm Brown can run for that or more on Sunday, the Rams should win this game, barring a barrage of turnovers or a total collapse of the Rams defense.
A climactic battle up front features Rams center Austin Blythe against Giants d-lineman Dalvan Tomlinson, who most often lines up as a nose tackle. Tomlinson is easily the Giant's best run defender, and if he can get the better of Blythe, the Giants could have a chance to muzzle the Rams running game. But Blythe has played well so far this season and hopefully should be up to the task on Sunday. In general, the Rams offensive line has vastly improved over the lackluster unit that we saw in 2019.
That's a little surprising considering we are talking about the same group of guys, but if they can play OK again on Sunday, the Rams will presumably win this game.
The Giant's defense won't be helped by the absence of safety Jabrill Peppers, arguably their best player on defense. If the Rams can run the ball and use the play-action pass, they could score many points. The Giants linebacking unit, led by former Packer Blake Martinez at middle linebacker, needs to step up if the Giants have any chance in this game.
If the Rams offense can play to form and avoid turnovers, you have to like their chances.
Rams Defense vs. Giants Offense: The Rams defense is coming off their most ineffective performance. They surrendered 35 points last week, failed to stop the Bills on two critical third plays of 22-yards 17-yards, and flagged for pass interference on a fourth down and eight, that could have sealed the victory. While the PI call was dicey at best, they need to be better.
The good news for the Rams is that Giants quarterback Daniel Jones is no Josh Allen, and the Giants are missing easily their best offensive player in running back Saquon Barkley, who lost for the season with a knee injury.
Many people think Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald will have a field day against Giants O-linemen guard Will Hernandez and center Nick Gates. This year, Gates has been so awful that some think the Rams may try to line AD up at nose tackle to take advantage of him. None of the Giants linemen has been exactly playing like an All-Pro this year, but AD can expect to see double and even triple teams all day long. Of course, he's accustomed to that, and it rarely works.
Perhaps the Ram's most significant defense problem was finding someone besides Aaron Donald that can consistently rush the passer. Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd has a couple of sacks, and Micheal Brockers has one, but Floyd has been inconsistent, as Brocker is primarily a runs-stopper.
The Rams have gotten minimal pass rush from the other outside linebacker position, mostly manned by Samson Ebukam and Ogo Okoronkwo. Ebukam is a freakish athlete who timed at 4.45 in the 40-yard dash (faster than many wide receivers), and Okoronkwo was considered a pass-rushing specialist in college the University of Oklahoma, but frankly, neither one has been outstanding this season. The Rams are hoping to get a boost from the return of rookie outside linebacker Terrell Lewis, but that is probably at least a week away. They need someone to step up as a pass rusher to create more outside pressure.
The Giants do have an immense potential weapon in tight end Evan Engram, a gifted athlete who hasn't done much this season. Rams Safety John Johnson may see a lot of Engram on Sunday.
The Giants probably hope to attack Rams slot corner Troy Hill with veteran receiver Golden Tate. Hill has had some struggles this season after a stellar 2019, and while Tate is getting a little long in the tooth, he is a crafty receiver who can still make some plays.
Veteran Devonta Freeman is expected to start in place of Barkley. He's not Barkley by a long shot, but he is a competent NFL running back. Perhaps he can renew his acquaintance with Aaron Donald in this game. The two exchanged some (un) pleasantries last season when Freeman was a member of the Falcons.
Who picks a fight with Aaron Donald? Seriously?
Special Teams: After being a team strength for years, this remains an area of concern for the Rams. Kicker Sam Sloman missed another field goal last week (albeit it a 53 yarder into the wind), and the Rams special teams, in general, have just not been excellent, except for punter Johnny Hekker. Let's hope the Rams don't have to count on Sloman's long field goal attempt to win this game.
Final Prediction: On paper, this is a mismatch, and the Rams should be in an angry mood after blowing what would have been an epic comeback last week in Buffalo. But the Rams need to avoid coming out flat, as they did a week ago in the first half. The Giants could win against that team instead of the much better second-half Rams team from last week.
The other x-factor, as always, is turnovers. The Rams should keep the Giants offense under control unless they gift them with a short field and generally don't play well.
Rams 30 Giants 17