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Giants vs. Rams: Five things to watch on Sunday

Will the Giants play hard, and will the fans care?

Seattle Seahawks v New York Giants Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Rams means absolutely nothing in the standings for the 1-6 New York Giants. They are going nowhere, slowwwwly, because the final nine weeks of the season are going to take forever to creep by. What we see Sunday, and over those final nine games, will, however, have long-term implications for the franchise.

Let’s look at five things to watch.

Will the Giants play like they give a damn?

That, quite honestly, should be a question you never have to ask about a professional athlete. Unfortunately, with these 1-6 Giants it is.

Whether Ben McAdoo wants to admit it or not, the recent suspensions of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins tell you there is an obvious disconnect between the coach and at least some of his players.

ESPN’s Jordan Ranaan wrote this week that players have admitted that a) some of their teammates don’t care anymore and b) some have lost respect for McAdoo.

Offensive lineman Justin Pugh said earlier this week that “We’re going to find out what the character of the men in this room is made of and it’s going to start this Sunday against a really good L.A. Rams team.”

Yes we will, and yes it does.

A pair of former Giants, both incidentally with Super Bowl rings, took to Twitter this week with some strong advice for Giants players.

Will the fans give a damn?

How many empty seats will there be at MetLife Stadium? How many of the filled ones will feature people wearing Rams jerseys? How quickly will the booing start if/when things go bad for the Giants? Might that booing even start when the Giants leave the locker room?

Things have already been ugly for the Giants at MetLife this season, especially during their Week 7 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. If this season continues on its current path they are going to get uglier.

You can bet that Giants ownership will be paying just as much, if not more attention to what happens in the stands on Sunday as they will to what takes place on the field.

While those are the biggest questions about Sunday, there are also a few on-field things to watch.

A Sterling performance?

Wide receiver Sterling Shepard should be back in the lineup after missing the last two games with an ankle injury. That gives Eli Manning at least one real option to throw the ball to aside from tight end Evan Engram.

Let’s see if it makes a difference for the Giants’ struggling offense. It had better because ...

A real offense will be in the building

No, not the Giants. The Rams are averaging 30.3 points per game, second in the NFL this season. The Giants have not hit the 30-point plateau in 24 games with Ben McAdoo as head coach.

Los Angeles has an exciting young quarterback in Jared Goff. They have the talented Todd Gurley at running back, and he is having an excellent both as a runner and a receiver. They have the left tackle the Giants probably should have made a better effort to sign in free agency, Andrew Whitworth. They have a balanced receiving group that includes former Buffalo Bills Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins.

Can the Giants defense, without Jenkins and probably once again without Olivier Vernon and perhaps without middle linebacker B.J. Goodson (ankle) slow them down? If the game turns into a track meet, does the Giants offense have any chance of keeping up?

Those “subtle changes”

McAdoo promised “subtle changes” to both personnel and scheme following the bye week. What might those be?

The Giants can’t overhaul the roster at this point in the season, so it will be interesting to see what adjustments are made. Will they move Evan Engram around a bit more? How will Shepard be employed? Might the running back rotation change a bit? Might we see some offensive wrinkles? Defensively, with ever-changing personnel, might we see Steve Spagnuolo dial back on some of the creative blitz packages he likes?

None of that will be season-changing, but it is worth paying attention to.