*Giants.com's Michael Eisen breaks down the opposing offense, defense, and special teams: *
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –The Giants will look to continue their longest active winning streak against a single opponent when they host the Los Angeles Rams Sunday in MetLife Stadium. A 26-21 victory in St. Louis against the defending NFC champions on Sept. 15, 2002 was the first of seven consecutive victories for the Giants against the Rams. The most recent triumph was on Oct. 23, 2016, a 17-10 decision in London. Despite the streak, the Rams lead the alltime regular-season series (which began in 1938), 25-16. This season, the Giants are 1-6. The Rams have won four of their last five games and are 5-2. Each team is coming off a bye last week.
What is the Rams’ biggest strength?
Los Angeles is equally strong on both sides of the ball. Defensively, it possesses an outstanding pass rush, led by standout defensive tackle Aaron Donald. The Rams have 23 sacks, or almost 3.5 a game. On offense, they can control both the clock and the game, particularly in the fourth quarter, thanks largely to running back Todd Gurley and an upgraded line.
The only fulltime offensive starters who faced the Giants last season are left guard Rodger Saffold, right tackle Rob Havenstein, and Gurley (slot receiver Tavon Austin is a part-time starter). Everyone else in the lineup is either new to the team (most notably wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods) or was a backup a year ago (Jared Goff, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft, who is arguably the league’s most improved quarterback).
Which player is key to the Rams’ offense?
The multi-talented Gurley, who is third in the NFL with 920 yards from scrimmage, fifth with 627 rushing yards, tied with Woods for the team lead with 27 receptions, and tied for first among non-kickers with 48 points (five touchdowns rushing, three receiving). He has run for more than 100 yards in four of the last five games. Gurley can also beat opposing teams as a receiver, as he demonstrated when he caught a pass on a wheel route and turned it into a 53-yard touchdown in a victory in Dallas. He was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week after rushing for 121 yards and catching seven passes for 94 yards vs. the Cowboys. The Rams try to get the ball in Gurley’s hands at least 25 times a game.
What is the strength of the Rams’ offense?
The ability to control the ball and score points. Los Angeles is second in the NFL with an average of 30.3 points a game. The Rams have scored at least 33 points in four of their seven games. They control the clock and limit the amount of time their defense is on the field (average time of possession is 30:35). Their strategy is particularly effective in the fourth quarter. Los Angeles has ended each of its victories with a substantial late-game drive. At Dallas, they held the ball for 12 plays and 5:16 and kicked a field goal for the final five-point margin. Two weeks later, an almost-identical drive – 12 plays, 5:08 – produced another field goal. In their most recent game, a 33-0 victory over Arizona, they padded their lead with a 16-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that took 10:19 off the clock.
Which player is key to the Rams’ defense?
A Pro Bowler in each of his first three seasons, Donald might be the best defensive player in the NFL right now – and he missed all of training camp and the opening game because of a contract dispute. He is a stout run defender who is unofficially third in the NFL with 31.5 quarterback pressures. Donald has 34.0 career sacks in 54 games.
What is the strength of the Rams’ defense?
The ability to rush the quarterback and limit big plays. Few teams get after opposing quarterbacks as persistently as Los Angeles. Five members of the front seven were drafted in the first round – Donald, Michael Brockers, Robert Quinn, Alec Ogletree and Mark Barron. Connor Barwin, who is familiar to the Giants after spending the previous four seasons in Philadelphia, was a second-round selection. And with all those big names, it is Matt Longacre – an undrafted backup linebacker – who leads the team with 4.0 sacks. The Rams have allowed just 39 points in their last 14 quarters, and only three in their last seven quarters.
Which player is key to the Rams’ special teams?
There’s a long list to choose from – punter Johnny Hekker is third in the league with a 45.5 net average and Pharoh Cooper is third with a 30.9-yard kickoff return average, including a 103-yard touchdown. But we’ll go with Greg “The Leg” Zuerlein, who is probably the NFL’s finest kicker. Zuerlein, named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Month for October on Thursday, leads the NFL with 84 points and has connected on 21 of 22 field goal attempts, including all 10 from 40 yards and longer. Zuerlein kicked seven field goals in the Rams’ victory in Dallas, and four of them were longer than 40 yards. He also leads the league with 36 touchbacks.
Based on the scouting report, what must the Giants do to win the game?
First, try to make the Rams one-dimensional on offense by stopping the run. It seems like a sound theory, though no team has actually succeeded. Los Angeles is sixth in the NFL with 127.6 rushing yards a game. And in their two losses, the Rams rushed for 97 and 100 yards. Also, be ready for anything. The Rams are difficult to prepare for, because they do so many things on offense, such as going in and out of the no-huddle at seemingly random times during a game. Offensively, the Giants must slow down the Rams’ pass rush.
*Statistics you should know: *
*The Rams are 4-0 outside of Los Angeles, including a home win against Arizona in London.
*The Rams have scored exactly 100 more points than the Giants, 212-112. Their plus-74 point differential is second in the NFL to Philadelphia’s plus-76.
*Both teams have a zero net turnover differential. The Giants have seven giveaways and seven takeaways, while the Rams have 12 of each.
*The Rams average 6.18 yards on first down, the league’s fifth-best figure.
*The Rams have finished with more than 330 net yards in every game but their victory in Jacksonville.