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Scouting Report: Matthew Stafford, Aaron Donald among key matchups


The Giants welcome the Rams into MetLife Stadium on Sunday. The Rams need the game at 8-7, still fighting for a playoff spot. They control their own destiny to claim one of the NFC Wild Card spots but need wins in their final two games. Here are matchups that will determine what team will win their final game of calendar year.  

Matthew Stafford vs. Wink Martindale

I usually don't like to select the opposing quarterback for this article, especially when a team has weapons outside like dynamic rookie Puka Nacua, Cooper Kupp, and a reliable young running back like Kyren Williams. But Stafford has been so good this year, I feel obligated to feature him here.

Stafford's stats don't jump off the paper, with a 62.0 completion rate (25th in the NFL), 93.0 passer rating (13th), 23 passing touchdowns (10th) and 3,648 passing yards (eighth). Despite those numbers all landing outside the elite top group of quarterbacks in the NFL, Stafford is playing as well as anyone.

Some of the more telling stats state the case. Stafford's .12 expected points added (EPA) per dropback is fifth-highest in the NFL, trailing only Brock Purdy, Tua Tagovailoa, Dak Prescott and Josh Allen, and 57.3 percent of his completions have gone for first downs or touchdowns, which is the fifth-best rate in the league. Stafford has the third-highest true air yards per completion, according to Next Gen Stats (20.6). He is eighth in the NFL in yards per attempt (7.5). According to Pro Football Focus, his turnover worthy play rate is the lowest in the NFL (1.6 percent), but he still manages the second-best big-time throw percentage among NFL quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts, second to only Tyrod Taylor.

I'm done with the stats. Convinced yet? No? Just watch the man play football. Stafford still has one of the best arms in football. He has the willingness and toughness to stand in the pocket and take a pounding, but he still has the athleticism to navigate and break the pocket if needed.

The Giants' pass defense ranks right in the middle of the league, landing 16th in the NFL in success rate and 18th in EPA allowed per dropback. They rank 20th in yards allowed per play (6.7) and yards allowed per game (230). The Giants have struggled getting opposing quarterbacks to the ground (4.7% sack rate) despite having the second-highest blitz percentage in the NFL (51.5).

Deonte Banks had to leave last week's game with a shoulder injury, and it will be important to have him back on the field this week to help cover Nacua, who leads all rookies in yards per route run and receiving yards. His 1,327 yards are fourth among all players. He is big (6-2 and 205 pounds), runs good routes, and has strong hands playing outside receiver. Kupp spends most of his time in the slot, where at 6-2 and 208 pounds will be one of the bigger slot players Cor'Dale Flott will have to cover this season. He has battled lower body injuries this year, but he still has 55 catches for 710 yards.

Aaron Donald vs. O-Line

It seems like apathy has taken over the conversation about Aaron Donald. No one seems to talk about him much or mentions him in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year. Maybe it's the fact he only has six sacks? People should be taking note of the 21 quarterback hits and 14 tackles for loss.

The advanced stats are even more impressive. Donald ranks seventh in total pressures (82) and has 14 more than any other defensive tackle. His pass rush win rate, despite being constantly double-teamed, is fourth in the NFL behind only Myles Garrett, Micah Parsons and Nick Bosa. He is still one of the most dangerous pass rushers in the NFL and gets production despite getting an outsized amount of attention from opposing offensive lines each week.

The Rams move Donald all over the defensive front. He has played further away from the quarterback more frequently this year with 412 snaps at right or left end compared to 314 snaps at right or left tackle, according to Pro Football Focus. He splits his time almost evenly between the right and left sides of the defensive line, which means it will be the entire Giants offensive line that will have to figure out a way to block him.

The Giants have the highest sack rate allowed in the NFL (13.5 percent) and the second-highest pressure rate allowed (44.3 percent), according to Pro Football Focus. The Rams have the eighth-highest blitz rate in the NFL (36 percent) and run stunts or twists at the seventh-highest rate in the NFL (31.1 percent), so the Giants front will have to communicate to keep their quarterback protected.

View rare photos of the history between the New York Giants and Los Angeles Rams.

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