The Los Angeles Rams are not a team New York Giants fans have been focused on the past couple of seasons. With the Giants facing the Rams this Sunday, Evan Craig of SB Nation’s Turf Show Times answers our ‘5 questions’ to educate us about the Rams.
Ed: The Rams were 3-6, but have won 5 of their last 6 games. What has changed?
Evan: The Rams have been a tough out all season long, yet they’re finally beginning to display the offense prowess that was expected from them at the start. Early in the year, it was the defense that was keeping LA in most games as the offense had trouble finding an identity. Sean McVay would sometimes force too much onto Matthew Stafford’s shoulders while abandoning the run which was truly frustrating to watch.
Following the bye week and ever since the return of Kyren Williams to the lineup, the offense has found an identity at the best possible time of the year. Williams has become a true workhorse back and became the first Rams RB to record 1,000 yards rushing in a season since Todd Gurley’s glory days. With Kyren running free, the pressure has been taken off Stafford so he’s been freed up to play loose and confident. Relying more on the ground game has provided Stafford with one, if not the best running games of his career. While the Rams have at times struggled to beat elite competition, LA can play with anyone and I like their chances in putting up a quality fight if they’re fortunate enough to make the postseason.
Ed: Not that long ago some people thought 35-year-old Matthew Stafford was on his last legs. Again, what has changed? How long can he keep playing at a high level?
Evan: I was honestly in the group that felt Matthew Stafford was on his last legs. It was a tad concerning watching him play in the first half of the season. His physical abilities had clearly never left but he was consistently inconsistent along with the rest of the offense and had been turning the ball over too much. The offense had struggled to find a rhythm and Stafford was forced to play the superhero role too often, leading to throwing away games against the 49ers and Bengals for example.
After the bye as I mentioned some in my previous answer, the offense began to find its footing and Stafford has been reaping the benefits, throwing multiple touchdown passes in five straight games. Improved O-line play has also been a significant contributor to his improved play. Stafford has been sacked 26 times in his 14 starts after being taken down 29 times in nine games last season. Assuming his skills don’t diminish and he can stay protected, I fully expect Stafford to play at a high level for a very long time. Nothing that I’ve seen this season despite his rough play to start out has shown me that his play will rapidly fall off a cliff anytime soon.
Ed: If you could take any Giants player and put him into the Rams lineup, who would it be? Why?
Evan: This is a tough question as the cupboard is a tad bare over in New York (no offense). My choice would be Kayvon Thibodeaux as the Rams could always use a elite athlete to function as a high-end pass rusher on the defense. You can never have enough pass rushers and LA needs help getting to the quarterback. There are youngsters like defensive lineman Kobie Turner and linebacker Byron Young. While Turner has been really coming on strong in the last month, Young has seemingly hit the dreaded rookie wall. Thibodeaux possesses so much untapped potential. I just like the idea of him working alongside Aaron Donald which would be a joy to watch. AD would be an excellent teacher and help bring out the most in the Oregon product.
Ed: Puka Nacua is having an amazing rookie season. How did this happen?
Evan: After alternating back and forth for the last couple months, I’d say Puka Nacua should win OROY honors over C.J. Stroud if he has another big game. I’d actually give it to him over Stroud right now if I had a vote but sadly I do not. None of his success has been surprising this season as he’s lived up to the hype he had garnered all throughout training camp and preseason. Nacua is having an amazing rookie campaign because he’s been a reliable pass catcher from Day 1. He’s got a remarkable nose for the ball and seemingly catches everything thrown his way. When Cooper Kupp was out of the lineup to start the year, Puka continued to shred defenses despite them knowing he was the main target for Stafford.
Another underrated aspect of his game is just how he carries himself. Nacua doesn’t play like a first-year player at all as he’s more like a veteran receiver. Sean McVay has gone out of his way several times saying how Puka plays beyond his years which is so true. That is why he’s close to setting rookie records in receptions and yards. It’s very rare to see a first-year player dominate in the way he has and even more special considering how he’s a late-round pick. Teams across the league seriously messed up by letting him slip to the fifth round.
Ed: DraftKings Sportsbook has the Rams as a solid 6.5-point favorite. If the Giants are going to pull off the upset, what is that likely to look like?
Evan: The Rams should not be taking the Giants lightly as this should be a very winnable matchup for them. If the Giants were to pull off an upset however, they have to make LA one-dimensional on offense. Matthew Stafford has been able to play well because he has an elite running game at his disposal. Take Kyren Williams out of the game or at least try to limit him to the best of their abilities and New York might have a chance. The main goal for the Giants is to not get their doors blown off and limit possessions for the Rams.