Tied for the second-best record in the NFL, yet with more to prove, the Los Angeles Rams head east to face the short-handed New York Giants as heavy favorites on Sunday afternoon.
Under the leadership of new quarterback Matthew Stafford, the Rams have been solid, approaching spectacular at times, in opening the season with a 4-1 record.
Los Angeles defeated the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers 34-24 in Week 3 before getting thumped 37-20 by the undefeated Arizona Cardinals, only to rebound on the road last week 26-17 against the division-rival Seattle Seahawks.
Expected to be improved, the Rams’ passing offense is third in the NFL in total yards (1,551), second in yards per game (310.2) and tied for second in yards per attempt (9.2) as Stafford has been efficient with his throws.
But even with two of the best defensive players in the NFL in defensive tackle Aaron Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey, the Rams are 23rd in passing defense (271.0 yards per game) after leading that category last season (190.7 yards).
It doesn’t help that cornerback Darious Williams was placed on injured reserve after suffering a sprained ankle last Thursday against the Seahawks.
What does help is that the Rams are in a soft portion of the schedule with their next three games against the Giants (1-4), Detroit Lions (0-5) and Houston Texans (1-4).
“We’re not the team that I think we are if we’re not able to handle (the Giants) with that maturity and let that affect our process and our ability to focus and concentrate,” Rams head coach Sean McVay said when asked about a potential letdown during an easier part of the schedule.
“… There’s going to be a lot of work that needs to be done for us to play well enough to try to get our fifth win against a really competitive football team.”
The Giants are merely trying to find out who they are going to put on the field Sunday. Quarterback Daniel Jones exited Sunday’s 44-20 loss to the Dallas Cowboys with a concussion and has not practiced this week, but he has not been ruled out for Sunday.
The Giants are expected to be without running back Saquon Barkley (ankle) and wide receiver Kenny Golladay (knee). Wide receivers Darius Slayton (hamstring) and Sterling Shepherd (hamstring) did not play last week.
The Giants appeared to be on the rise with close defeats to the Washington Football Team and Atlanta Falcons. Then came some reward with a 27-21 road victory over the New Orleans Saints, followed by last week’s injury-marred loss.
Whether it is Jones or Mike Glennon at quarterback, more will be needed from the New York offense, which is only averaging 20.6 points per game.
Maximizing productivity with Donald breathing down the neck of either one has the Giants’ full attention.
“In terms of how to deal with (Donald), obviously there will be some things in the gameplan, that we’re going to go ahead through the week and see how they fit us, what we do with him,” Giants head coach Joe Judge said. “I think the biggest with him is when you get into the game, being flexible enough to change a plan based on what they are doing with him. … You can’t lock your knees based on what you’re looking to do.”
Donald did miss practice Wednesday after coming away with a knee contusion against the Seahawks, but he is expected to play Sunday, as is Rams kicker Matt Gay (sore ankle).
–Field Level Media