By Sam McPherson
The New York Giants and the Los Angeles Rams travel to England for Sunday’s Week 7 match-up, and while the Giants currently occupy last place in the NFC East Division with a 3-3 record, they are obviously a team that can present many problems for an opponent on any given day in the NFL. With two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Eli Manning and superstar wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr., New York is never out of any game it plays.
However, the Giants are also a very flawed team on both sides of the ball, and for Rams fans everywhere, that sounds awfully familiar. Both teams are at .500 right now after six weeks of play, and since this is a conference match-up, the winner will also gain a potential tiebreak edge if it comes down to playoff seeding late in the 2016 season. That means this under-the-radar game on the NFL landscape is actually quite important.
Giants Season Record: 3-3
New York has played a pretty tough schedule so far, although that is to be expected playing in the best division in the NFL. The Giants have posted wins over the Dallas Cowboys, the New Orleans Saints and the Baltimore Ravens—teams with a combined 10-7 record. They have also lost to the Washington Redskins, the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers. Those three teams are a combined 13-4 this season.
The three wins have come by a combined eight points, while two of the losses were by a touchdown or less. This means the Giants have played in very competitive games this year against some of the best teams in the NFL. In fact, the Rams may be the “worst” team New York has seen this season so far, and that’s saying something since L.A. owns a win over the Seattle Seahawks.
Giants on Offense
Manning is 35 years old, and it’s been a long time since he led the New York organization to the postseason. In fact, the last time the Giants made it to meaningful January football was 2011 when he engineered a second Super Bowl upset over the New England Patriots. That’s actually the only N.Y. playoff appearance since the 2008 season.
This season, Manning is playing decent football, but the Giants player on offense that everyone focuses on now is OBJ. He has 581 receiving yards already this year, and he is coming off a monster game against the Ravens where he registered 222 yards receiving and two touchdowns. OBJ has averaged over 101 yards per game receiving for his three-year NFL career.
Giants on Defense
Over the last four games, New York has given up an average of 391.5 yards per game. That’s one reason the team only has one victory in that stretch, of course. In addition, the Giants have forced just three turnovers this season, and that inability to stop the opponents on offense has limited the offense’s chances to score points, obviously.
New York won two Super Bowls in a five-year span due to its ability to pressure the opposing QB, but this year, the Giants have just six sacks in six games. That’s not “pressure” at all, and while all six N.Y. opponents this year employ pretty good QBs, the team still has struggled to mount any kind of pass rush in 2016.
Players to Watch: RB Rashad Jennings and S Landon Collins
Everyone knows about Manning and Beckham, Jr., so the running game in the Giants offense is actually an underrated aspect to their potential success. Jennings is the starter, but he’s been ineffective in the three games he’s played this year. Averaging just 2.9 yards per carry in 2016, way down from the 4.4 mark he posted last year with New York, Jennings has to run with authority and success for the Giants offense to fully thrive.
Defensively, it’s never a good sign when one of your safeties is the leading tackler on your roster. Collins has 41 solo stops this year, which is 12 more than the next best player on the team. That means a lot of opposing offensive players are getting through New York’s front seven with too much regularity, so if Collins’ name is once again called out too frequently by the PA announcer at Twickenham Stadium, then the Giants are in trouble defensively (again).
The Giants present a similar challenge to the Rams offensively to what the Detroit Lions did last week, and if Los Angeles’ own front seven isn’t up to the task defensively against Manning, it could be another day like the one the Rams just suffered at Ford Field. The Rams’ health, therefore, heading into this match-up is huge. Assuming some of the nicks and bruises have healed, look for the Los Angeles defense to frustrate Jennings, force Manning into mistakes and help the Rams offense just enough to secure a close win in front of 82,000 potential American football fans in England.