Overview: On paper, this looks like an easy win for the Rams, but there are no "gimme" games in the NFL. Last season the Rams visited the New York area for what seemed like an easy win against a winless Jets team. At the end of the game, the Jets had their first victory; in fact, Los Angeles in recent years has had some bad outings when traveling to the east coast. It's also worth noting that the Giants did pick up their first win against a Saints team that is at least decent a couple of weeks ago,
Throw in the fact that the Rams defense is ranked 23rd in the league going into this weekend and is not missing starting corner Darious Williams, and the potential for an upset is there.
Rams Defense vs. Giants Offense: This is the side of that ball that has Rams fans concerned, and with good reason. A unit that was first in the league last season under now-departed defensive coordinator Brandon Staley has not been excellent so far in 2021. The adjustment period to the new D.C. Raheem Morris has been a bumpy one. The Rams miss safety John Johnson in particular and corner Troy Hill. Part of the problem is that the guys replacing safety Taylor Rapp and (mostly) cornerback David Long has not played very well. Last week Robert Rochelle did a credible job replacing Long at cornerback, but the injury to Williams likely means Long will see more snaps again this week. He has to play better than he did in a disastrous game a couple of weeks ago against the Cardinals.
The Giants may try to attack Rapp with tight end Evan Engram. Rapp is decent against the run, but his coverage skills have been a liability this season. Engram is an athletic tight end who can run, so the Rams may need to adjust or get Rapp to help in coverage. One on one, this is not a good matchup for the Rams. Might we see more of Terrell Burgess safety this week?
The last time Long saw extensive playing time, Kyler Murray and the Cardinals went after him with a fair amount of success. The Giants receiving corps is certainly not on par with Arizona's, especially with wideout Kenny Golladay out with an injury. Even so, Long may be a marked man on Sunday, assuming he gets a fair amount of snaps.
The marquee matchup in this game could be Rams corner Jalen Ramsey against Giants wideout Kadarius Toney, The G-men's former first-round pick out of Florida. As bad as the Giants outing was in a road loss to Dallas last week, Toney had an NFL coming-out party of sorts, with ten catches for 189 yards. While the Rams under Morris move Ramsey around a lot, it seems likely that he will match up against Toney more often than not. Toney did reveal a possible weak spot last week when he was goaded into throwing a punch at a Cowboys safety. Ramsey, who is almost as well known for his trash-talking as he is for his elite physical ability, may try to get under the rookie's skin with some insults and verbal jabs.
The Giants will be without their biggest offensive weapon, running back Saquon Barkley, who is injured. Quarterback Daniel Jones will play and listed as questionable is Giants left tackle Andrew Thomas. We crave for him to play, but a more prominent issue could be at the other tackle position, where Nate Solder, the former Patriot, has struggled. Rams edge rusher Leonard Floyd could have a big day if he can take advantage of Solder.
You can't talk about the Rams defense without mentioning Aaron Donald, who missed practice this week with a swollen knee. The latest word was is that A.D. will play on Sunday. While Donald only has three sacks in five games this year, that's a bit deceptive because he's been pressuring opposing quarterbacks and spending a good deal of time-fighting backfields. Daniel Jones has a history of being fumble prone, although he is more mobile and athletic than you might assume. This game could get ugly if the Rams can force him into a turnover or two or sack him multiple times.
We will check this box for the Rams based on talent and the injuries to Barkley and Golladay, but the Rams defense needs to start playing better. Looking at you, David Long and Taylor Rapp.
If Jones can get time to throw and the Rams can't fix their coverage issues, this game could be a lot closer than people think, and the Giants could pull the upset.
Rams Offense vs. Giants Defense: Dallas hung 44 points on this defense last week, and the Rams are certainly capable of a similar tally if they play well and avoid mistakes. New York's defense looked like it was starting to jell last season, but they have been pretty bad so far in 2021, ranking 29th in the league in yards allowed. They have been a little better in scoring defense (but not much), allowing an average of just under 28 points a game. Their offense isn't going to rack up 30 points a game very often, so they have to play better if they want to avoid last place in an admittedly weak NFC East.
The Giant's best defensive lineman is Leonard Williams. They move him around much as the Rams do with Aaron Donald, and they may try to get him lined up against Rams guard David Edwards, the relatively weak link in a perfect offensive line. Williams hasn't been pressuring opposing quarterbacks as well as the Giants would like so far this season. They need that to change on Sunday. The Giants will also be hoping that outside linebacker Azeez Olujari. Olujari will try to blow by Rams correct tackle Rob Havenstein and pressure Matt Stafford. Havenstein has had a good season so far, but he historically has had problems with athletic pass-rushers, such as Olujari.
Robert Woods came out of hiding last week and had a massive game against the Seahawks. He'll probably see a lot of corner James Bradberry, who has a good reputation as a defender but has struggled this season. We don't think the Giants secondary, in general, matched up very well with Ram's talented group of receivers, so they need to pressure Stafford. Stafford, for whatever reason, has been prone to slow starts this season, but he can be deadly once he gets going.
The Rams have not emphasized the ground game all that much this season, but Darrel Henderson, in particular, has shown flashes of being very good. The Giants are giving up an average of 138 yards on the ground (almost 200 yards against Dallas last week), and one of the best ways to neutralize a pass rush (if Williams and Oluzari can win their respective battles) is with a strong running game. It would also help keep what has been a suspect Rams defense off the field, but so far, the Rams haven't shown any particular liking for a "ground and pound' approach, even when the running game seems to be working.
Special Teams: This area seems to be an ongoing problem for the Rams, with kicker Matt Gay last week suffering a lousy game against the Seahawks. Gay was listed on the injury report with an ankle problem but is expected to play on Sunday. He's been pretty good this season until last week, so it's possible that he was either slightly injured or had a bad day.
Johnny Hekker has been chiefly solid at punter for the Rams, but special teams have not been a team strength so far. Giants head coach Joe Judge was Bill Belichick's special team's coach in New England, and New York has guys on the roster simply on the strength of their special teams play more often than you usually find in the NFL. If they are to pull the upset on Sunday, special teams could be a factor.
Coaching: While Rams Defensive Coordinator Raheem Morris and Special Teams Coach Joe DeCamillis are under pressure to get better performances from their respective units, we still like Sean McVay as an offensive innovator. The Rams also have superior roster talent overall, and good players make good coaches.
Final Prediction: The Rams are favored by 9.5 in this game, and they should win. Not only are they more talented, they are also healthier.
The Giants probably need some big plays on special teams and an off day from the Rams offense to win this game. Stafford has been streaky, and the Rams have a history of not playing well on long road trips back east, so this game could surprise some people if the ball takes a few funny bounces.
But you have to like the Rams chances overall:
Rams 34 Giants 23
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