One year ago, the New York Giants and Los Angeles Rams met in London, and both seemed headed in completely different direction.
Things have remained the same, yet extraordinarily different, as the teams meet for a rematch at MetLife Stadium.
Two of the NFL’s biggest surprises square off on Sunday afternoon, as the reeling Giants (1-6) take on the surging Rams (5-2) in a battle of teams coming off their bye weeks (1:00 PM EST, FOX).
The Giants are in the middle stage of a three game NFC West stretch, having fallen to the Seattle Seahawks 24-7 in East Rutherford two weeks ago.
The Giants jumped out to an early lead, scoring on a five-yard Eli Manning pass to Evan Engram, but 24 unanswered Seattle points proved to be their downfall, as the Giants failed to capitalize on the momentum of their first win of the season in Denver. The offense was stagnant, save for the touchdown, as New York only generated 177 yards of offense.
Meanwhile, the Rams are coming off another trip to London, but unlike last year against the Giants, they were victorious, drubbing the Arizona Cardinals 33-0.
Los Angeles held Arizona to a mere 196 yards and 10 first downs and intercepted two passes, as the defense helped preserve the Rams’ first shutout of the Cardinals since 1979. Running back Todd Gurley ran for 106 yards and a score on the ground.
Season Series History
This will be the 44th all-time matchup between the Giants and the Rams, a series that dates back to 1938, when the Rams were based in Cleveland. While Los Angeles leads the series 26-17, the Giants have won the last seven meetings, including last season’s 17-10 win at Twickenham Stadium overseas.
Safety Landon Collins had two interceptions, one of which was returned 44 yards for a score, as the Giants made up a 10-0 first quarter deficit. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie added two more, including one that clinched the game, as a Case Keenum heave landed in his waiting arms in the end zone.
Against the current the “Los Angeles” incarnation of the Rams, the Giants are 9-20. The Rams last visited East Rutherford under the LA moniker in 1993, when the Giants took a 20-10 decision at Giants Stadium.
Defensive heroics ruled the day for the Giants, who held Los Angeles to eight first downs and 171 yards. Cornerback Mark Collins more or less put the game away with a 50-yard scoring return of a Jim Everett interception, putting the Giants up 20-3.
The Giants last visited Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 1979, winning 20-14. Afterwards, they visited the Rams six times between 1980 and 1994, with the games being played at Anaheim Stadium (Now known as Angel Stadium).
The two teams have met twice in the playoffs, splitting the pair. The Giants won in the 1984 NFC Wild Card Game in Anaheim 16-13, while the Rams took a Divisional round showdown in East Rutherford in 1990, as Willie Anderson’s 30-yard overtime touchdown from Everett won the game 19-13.
The Competitive Edge
Key Matchup To Watch: Andrew Whitworth vs Jason Pierre-Paul
One of the (many) reasons why the Rams and Giants are trending in totally different directions this season is that the Rams did what the Giants did not:address subpar offensive play.
In seven starts last season, quarterback Jared Goff was sacked 26 times, including seven times in a 44-6 loss to Arizona in the season finale. In London last year, Keenum was sacked three times. To make matters worse, Gurley’s yards per carry dipped to an abysmal 3.2, which ranked 40th in football among qualifying running backs.
This offseason, the Rams ditched the disappointing left tackle Greg Robinson, the second overall pick of the 2014 draft. Shipping Robinson off to Detroit for a sixth round pick, the Rams instead invested in free agent Andrew Whitworth.
While older, Whitworth, 35, has earned strong praise from Rams head coach Sean McVay (grandson of ex-Giants coach John), who called Whitworth “outstanding” in a conference call earlier this week.
The addition of Whitworth, as well as center John Sullivan (who previously played under McVay in Washington, where McVay was the offensive coordinator), have paid huge dividends for the Rams thus far. Through their seven games, they have allowed just 10 sacks, tied for third-fewest in football. Furthermore, Gurley’s average carry has risen to a respectable 4.3 yards.
Whitworth will probably be matched up against Pierre-Paul, who will need to anchor the defense with Olivier Vernon, Kerry Wynn, B.J. Goodson and Jonathan Casillas out.
If the Giants are going to pull off an upset, they’ll need to make Goff uncomfortable. Slowly gaining confidence after being written off as a bust last season, this will be the first time last year’s top overall pick will face the Giants.
|Giants||LB Jonathan Casillas||Neck||OUT|
|Giants||DE Olivier Vernon||Ankle||OUT|
|Giants||LB BJ Goodson||Ankle||OUT|
|Giants||DE Kerry Wynn||Knee||OUT|
|Giants||C Weston Richburg||Concussion||OUT|
|Giants||G Justin Pugh||Back||OUT|
|Giants||CB Donte Deayon||Ankle||QUESTIONABLE|
The Giants Will Win If…
Newcomers rise to the occasion.
Better call Keanu Reeves and Gene Hackman. The plethora of injuries to the Giants defense, (as well as the unforced error of cornerback Janoris Jenkins’s suspension), has led to plenty of potential unsung heroes rising up for the Giants. Expect, for example, to see plenty more of fifth-round pick Avery Moss at defensive end this week.
Moss forced a crucial fumble that led to the Giants’ lone score two weeks ago against Seattle, and his role will only increase with Vernon and Wynn down.
Deayon, should he be good to go, will be another one to keep an eye on, as he’ll probably get a lot of reps alongside his mentor Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie in the wake of Jenkins’s absence. If they can create a few surprise, the Giants can escape with an unlikely win.
The Rams Will Win If…
They’re not caught looking ahead.
Surprise contenders and looking to end one of football’s longest playoff droughts, the Rams are sitting pretty at 5-2, separating themselves from an NFC rife with mediocrity. They’ll complete the first half of their schedule against the presumably easy Giants, but nothing is guaranteed in today’s NFL.
After Sunday, the Rams, perhaps still looking for a true signature win (the most worthwhile win thus far is a road victory over the inconsistent Cowboys), have matchups against the Texans, Vikings and Saints to continue their November slate.
December also sees matchups against the Eagles and Titans, not to mention a rematch with the Seahawks that could possibly decide the NFC West. They need to put the Giants away quick and early so as to avoid the proverbial trap game.
The Giants re-emerged from a bye week and somehow might’ve gotten more injured. Last season, the London loss seemed to signify the return of the Giants and the demise of the Rams, but the two teams have traded personas since. With the injuries and general sense of gloom around East Rutherford, there’s really little reason to believe that trend will reverse.
Rams 27, Giants 3