There’s no better way to start a Sunday than with football as soon as you get out of bed. For fans of the New York Giants and Los Angeles Rams, that’s exactly what they’ll be able to do on Sunday, when the Giants and Rams face off at Twickenham Stadium in London, England at 9:30 am on NFL Network.
The Giants saved their season with a win last week over the Baltimore Ravens, steadying their record at 3-3. Meanwhile, the Rams are also 3-3 and have picked up tremendously from the first two weeks, in which they failed to score a single touchdown. It should be a good game as East meets West overseas.
New York Giants: Offense
We saw some of the same as well as some new things from the Giants on offense last week. While quarterback Eli Manning primarily utilized the short game and his check-down options, he was also able to balance that with some big plays to Odell Beckham Jr., who totaled 222 yards and 2 touchdowns. Still, the Giants would like to see Victor Cruz, Sterling Shepard, and even the tight ends get more involved in the passing game.
Manning had a good game mainly because his offensive line had a good game as well. If Manning cannot remain on his feet, the Giants have no shot at winning against the Rams’ stout defensive line. The O-Line will need to have another solid effort to protect Manning as well as to open up the stagnant running game.
Los Angeles Rams: Offense
First overall draft pick Jared Goff has yet to take an offensive snap this season, but that is by design. The Rams are content with veteran Case Keenum under center, and he has rewarded their faith so far, completing over 63% of his passes and throwing 7 touchdowns. However, he also has 6 interceptions on the year, so he has been far from unbeatable. Wideouts Kenny Britt and Tavon Austin are Keenum’s favorite targets; they’ll present tricky matchups for the Giants’ secondary.
The Rams will only go as far as running back Todd Gurley II will take them; he has yet to gain significant yardage on the year so far, and the Rams have suffered because of it. His longest run of the year was only 16 yards, he is only averaging 2.9 yards per carry, and he only has 3 touchdowns. The Giants will need to be vigilant against Gurley still, as he can go off at any time against anybody.
New York Giants: Defense
The Giants’ defense has been surprisingly steady so far this year, but there is still room for improvement. The pass rush, for one, has been invisible so far. Against the Rams’ subpar offensive line, the Giants could use big days from Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon.
The linebackers, led by Jonathan Casillas, Devon Kennard, Kelvin Sheppard, and Keenan Robinson, have had their ups and downs, but have mostly been solid tacklers. The secondary is the best part of the Giants’ defense though, as Janoris Jenkins will take on his old teammates in the defensive backfield.
The Giants could be getting Eli Apple back from injury, which can only help in coverage. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Leon Hall are also dependable veterans, and young safeties Landon Collins and Andrew Adams have gotten the job done. The Rams like to throw the ball deep, so the secondary will have to be on their toes on Sunday morning.
Los Angeles Rams: Defense
The Rams use an interesting defensive alignment; their official team website lists the base defense as a dime set, only using one linebacker on passing downs. The team will also play a lot of nickel coverages, but it is rare to see the Rams in a base 4-3 defense. This leads to lots of creative blitzes that the Giants will have to pick up on.
The stars of the Rams on defense are defensive tackle Aaron Donald and linebacker Alec Ogletree. Donald is arguably the best defensive player in all of football; he is a tantalizing pass rusher and a vicious run-stuffer. Interestingly, the Giants could have selected Donald instead of Odell Beckham at 12th overall in the 2014 NFL Draft, but it’s safe to say that both teams are content with the way things turned out.
The Rams’ secondary is thin to begin with, but will also be missing starting corner Trumaine Johnson. This in turn could allow for the Giants’ wideouts some much-needed space to work with.
New York Giants: Special Teams
Things will look a little different for the Giants on special teams on Sunday. Now that ex-kicker Josh Brown’s admission of domestic violence is public, the Giants will likely cut their reliable kicker. They didn’t hesitate in replacing him, choosing savvy vet Robbie Gould to take over for at least one week. Gould is as steady as they come, and rarely misses a big kick.
Nothing against punter Brad Wing, but ideally the Giants would see less of him on Sunday; the team doesn’t want to have to see him punt 5 times a game, which has been his average so far this year.
Los Angeles Rams: Special Teams
The Rams may have the best collection of special teams in all of the NFL. Kicker Greg Zuerlein has a booming leg, punter Johnny Hekker is among the best in the league at both punting and operating fake punt plays, and return man Tavon Austin is a blur when he finds open space.
One can never predict how teams will respond to a game across the river in London, but the Giants have a young enough group where I think they’ll be able to handle the transition in stride. The Rams are a physical team, but as long as the stars (meaning Odell Beckham) keep their heads in check, the Giants should be able to pull out a “W” heading into their bye week.
27-20, Giants (Record picking Giants games: 5-1)