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10 Things To Watch For

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10 things to watch in Giants vs. Rams

DABOLL-MCVAY-10-THINGS

TAYLOR TO START AT QB

After starting his sixth consecutive game under center, quarterback Tommy DeVito was replaced at halftime of Monday's loss against the Eagles. DeVito completed nine of 16 pass attempts for 55 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 63.3 in his two quarters of action while adding a five-yard run. The offense totaled just 100 net yards and three points in the first half.

Tyrod Taylor went into the game in relief of the rookie quarterback, and completed seven of 16 passes for 133 yards, including a 69-yard touchdown to touchdown to Darius Slayton in the fourth quarter.

Head coach Brian Daboll announced Wednesday morning that Taylor will start in Week 17 against the Rams.

"I thought Ty did some good things in the second half of Philly so he earned the right to start this game," Daboll said. "Let's get ready for the Rams, really have nothing else to add on it. That's where we're at."

"It means everything to me," Taylor added about being named the starter. "I mean, obviously the work that you put in week in and week out. I've been playing this game for a long time and anytime I get a chance to lace up the cleats and go out and compete means the world to me. That's where I'm the happiest, and it's what I love to do, to be able to go out and not only show your peers but prove to yourself what you could do.

"It's not a me thing. It's a team sport, and I'm excited for our guys to go out for these last two weeks to put our best foot forward and to compete at a high level. Regardless of playoffs or not, there's always something to play for and that's the mindset that we've got to have."

ALL-TIME SERIES

The New York Giants (5-10) host the Los Angeles Rams (8-7) in MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 31. Kickoff is set for 1:00 p.m. ET on FOX.

Sunday's game is the 45th regular-season meeting between the Giants and Rams. The Giants have a 16-28 record in those contests and a 9-14 record at home. The teams last
met on Oct. 17, 2021, when the Rams won in MetLife Stadium, 38-11.

The Rams hold a three-game winning streak in the series, which was preceded by a seven-game Giants winning streak from 2002-16. The Giants last defeated the Rams at
home in 2011.

View photos of the Giants on the practice field ahead of the Week 17 matchup against the Los Angeles Rams.

INJURY REPORT

Giants

Doubtful: TE Lawrence Cager (groin)

Questionable: CB Deonte Banks (shoulder), WR Wan'Dale Robinson (quad)

Rams

Out: DB Tre Tomlinson (hamstring)

Questionable: OL Joe Noteboom (foot), WR Puka Nacua (hip), LB Ernest Jones (illness), Alaric Jackson (thigh)

ANOTHER TOUGH TEST

The Giants' defense struggled to contain the Eagles' potent offense on Christmas Day. Philadelphia had success both through the air and on the ground, as quarterback Jalen Hurts threw for over 300 yards and a touchdown, and added another score with his legs. The Eagles finished the game with 465 total yards of offense, the third-highest yardage total the Giants have surrendered on the season.

The area that hurt the defense the most was the run game, as the Eagles' 170 rushing yards were the third-most the Giants have allowed this year. The run defense was the Achilles heel of the unit last season, and the defense is struggling in that area again this year. The Giants rank 29th in rushing yards, 30th in rushing touchdowns and 31st in rushing yards per attempt allowed.

After a hot-and-cold start to the season, the Rams' offense has been on a roll in recent weeks. Over their last five games, the Rams have scored at least 28 points in every outing while totaling no less than 399 yards of offense. The Rams' recent offensive success matches up perfectly with the return of running back Kyren Williams. The second-year back was placed on injured reserve due to an ankle injury suffered in Week 6. He returned in Week 12, and in the five games since coming back, Williams has averaged 120.2 rushing yards per game. Williams is averaging 5.1 yards per attempt on the season and has totaled 1,057 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground in just 11 games. His 96.1 rushing yards per game currently leads the NFL. Heading into Week 17, the Rams rank eight in points and seventh in yards.

SAQUON HITS MILESTONE

Saquon Barkley added to his season totals against the Eagles last week, finishing the game with 80 yards and a touchdown on the ground. This performance led to Barkley reaching an impressive milestone in his NFL career. His 80 rushing yards saw him jump into fourth place on the Giants' all-time rushing list with 5,126 yards, moving ahead of Brandon Jacobs (5,087). With two games remaining, Barkley needs 171 more yards to get into third place on the list; Joe Morris currently sits in third place with 5,296 rushing yards.

Barkley has now rushed for 877 yards and four touchdowns on 217 rush attempts this season (4.0 avg.). He's also found the end zone four times through the air, totaling 36 receptions for 210 yards and the four scores. Barkley has gained 1,087 total yards from scrimmage in 12 games, marking the fourth time in six years that he's topped 1,000 total yards of offense in a season. Barkley's current mark of 71.2 rushing yards per game is the most in franchise history.

The Rams defense is in the midst of a dominant stretch against the run. Following their Week 10 bye, Los Angeles has limited five of their last six opponents to less than 90 total rushing yards. This has helped the unit rise to 13th in the league in rushing yards allowed on the season, while their 11 rushing touchdowns allowed are tied for the 10th-fewest. Saints running back Alvin Kamara was bottled up last week, totaling just 19 yards on nine carries while adding five receptions for only 16 yards.

OKEREKE & McKINNEY'S SNAP STREAK

Heading into the penultimate game of the 2023 campaign, inside linebacker Bobby Okereke (132) and safety Xavier McKinney (104) rank first and second on the team in total tackles. A big reason for that has been their ability to stay on the field. Okereke and McKinney are two of only three defenders across the entire NFL that have not missed a single defensive snap this season (Washington's Kamren Curl is the third).

"I think it's a tribute to them that they've taken care of their bodies," defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said. "They've been fortunate without any injuries but how they've taken care of their bodies resting, working out, doing all the things you have to do to prepare to play every Sunday to get in a 60-play car accident basically is what it is. I think they're both playing really well."

Okereke's 132 total tackles has him tied for the ninth-most in the NFL heading into Week 17. Meanwhile, McKinney's 104 total tackles are the sixth-most among safeties. In addition to racking up a lot of tackles while playing every snap, both players have performed well in coverage this season. According to Pro Football Focus, Okereke is the eight-highest ranked linebacker in coverage this year, while McKinney ranks sixth among safeties.

SLAYTON'S BIG PLAY ABILITY

Darius Slayton had the biggest play of the game for the Giants offense on Christmas. Slayton got behind Eagles safety Reed Blankenship on a deep route and pulled in pass from Taylor before proceeding to beat outrun the defender for a 69-yard touchdown. The long play helped Slayton finish with a game-high 90 receiving yards on three receptions, two of which came in the second half from Taylor.

Slayton has quietly put together another solid season. He leads the team with 602 receiving yards while his 41 receptions rank third. In fact, the 26-year-old is on pace to finish as the team's leading receiving for the fourth time in five seasons, an impressive accomplishment for the veteran receiver. His 3,156 career receiving yards currently sits as the 22nd-most in franchise history.

Saints receivers found success last week against the Rams. Chris Olave recorded season-highs in both receptions (nine) and receiving yards (123), while Rashid Shaheed brought in five passes for 70 yards and a touchdown. New Orleans' No. 3 receiver, A.T. Perry, was targeted just once but made it count, catching a 35-yard touchdown pass from Carr.

STAFFORD 'PLAYING AT HOF' LEVEL

The Rams have won five of their last six games following their Week 10 bye, due largely to their offensive surge. The unit's success can be credited to numerous players, but it all starts with quarterback Matthew Stafford.

The 35-year-old has thrown multiple touchdown passes in five consecutive games, with a 14-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio and an average of 277.6 passing yards per game during that span. Stafford has finished with a passer rating above 100 in all five games and has only taken six total sacks over that stretch. Count Martindale as one person thoroughly impressed with the veteran quarterback's recent play.

"I think that Stafford is playing at a Hall of Fame-type level and each team, we've talked about it here, each team gels and they have gelled offensively," the defensive coordinator said. "I think that Matthew is - I mean, he's making throws that you just sit there and go, 'wow.' From all different kind of arm angles, no looks, all those things you've heard about, you're seeing him do it and they're playing at a very high level. I think that the thing that (Rams head coach) Sean (McVay) has done is that they've made a commitment to the run game and changing their offensive line this year. Now, it's a two-headed monster that you have to deal with.

"So, they put you in a bind of what you want to try to do and how you're going try to do it, but Stafford is playing unreal. I mean, he's a great football player, but I think that he and (Ravens quarterback) Lamar (Jackson) should be up for the MVP candidate. That's the kind of year he's having, and they've scored over 30 points a game since you when you were talking about."

AARON DONALD 'AN ALIEN'

While the Rams have undergone significant changes over the last decade, one thing has remained consistent – the presence of Aaron Donald. Over his first nine seasons in the NFL, the defensive lineman made the Pro Bowl every year, was named Defensive Player of the Year three times, and was selected as a First-Team All-Pro seven times. This has been one of the most impressive starts to a career the NFL has ever seen and perhaps the most dominant since Lawrence Taylor.

Now in his 10th season, Donald has done more of the same in 2023. The 32-year-old has registered six sacks, just a half-sack shy of the team-lead, in addition to 14 tackles for loss and 21 quarterback hits, both of which rank first on the Rams. Heading into Week 17, Donald is the third-highest ranked interior defensive lineman by PFF, trailing Dexter Lawrence and the Jets' Quinnen Williams. Donald is likely to line up against center John Michael Schmitz for a lot of Sunday's game, which will provide the rookie center with one of his toughest tests of the season.

"One of the best to ever do it," Daboll said about Donald. "He's always a problem when you play him. As much as you try to gameplan for him, he always finds ways to make plays. He's one of the best defensive players, he's unbelievable."

"Aaron Donald is a Hall of Fame type player," said offensive coordinator Mike Kafka. "He's a really good, talented player. He plays in a good scheme that's well coached. It's going to be a big challenge, not for just a rookie but for everyone on the front line."

While he does not have to gameplan for the All-Pro lineman himself, Martindale called Donald "one of the best" to ever play the position.

"He's just an alien," Martindale added. "There's no other - he's just unreal and it's down after down after down after down. He is one of the best. He'll go down as one of the best three techniques of all time."

CHALLENGE OF FACING KUPP, NACUA

The Rams offense has been firing on all cylinders lately, with wide receivers Puka Nacua and Cooper Kupp playing a significant role in the offensive success. Let's start with the rookie, who is fresh off the best game of his young NFL career. Nacua caught nine passes for a season-high 164 yards against the Saints last week and scored his fifth touchdown of the year. The first-year wideout ranks fourth in the NFL with 1,327 receiving yards, while his 96 receptions are tied for the eighth-most.

Despite it being his rookie season, Nacua has already shown a lot of similarities to the All-Pro he shares the WR room with. Kupp missed the first four games of the season due to a hamstring injury, but has still totaled 710 receiving yards in his 11 games. The 2021 Offensive Player of the Year has topped 110 receiving yards in two of the last three games while finding the end zone in three of the last four.

"They're two really good players, tremendous run after catch," Daboll said about the two Rams receivers. "Strong, physical, I mean, they do stuff that tight ends do in the run game, both of them."

"They have the same skillset," Martindale added. "They got great hands, they run great routes, they are great run-after-catch guys, they're physical when they block. It's like having tight ends out there playing wide receiver, that's how well they block. So, we got to work on getting off blocks and shedding blocks and things like that, just like you would if there's a tight end coming to block you."

The defensive coordinator went on to call Nacua and Kupp "the two best blocking wide receivers in the league."

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

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