The 5-10 New York Giants end their season with a two-game home stand that starts this week against the 8-7 Los Angeles Rams. The Rams currently occupy the sixth seed in the playoffs, tied with the Seattle Seahawks, who own the seventh seed.
This Week 16 matchup is important to the Rams, who travel to the East Coast for a 1 p.m. start. Los Angeles ends their season against the 11-4 San Francisco 49ers. Matt Stafford and the Rams are one of the hottest teams in football.
They’ve won five of their last six games and just defeated the New Orleans Saints 30-22 on Thursday Night Football. The Rams had an extended break, and the Giants are on a short week after their 33-25 defeat on Monday.
New York is waiting to turn the somber page of the 2023 campaign to the offseason. The Tommy DeVito craze gained sanity against the Eagles, as the rookie was benched at halftime in favor of veteran signal-caller Tyrod Taylor, who Brian Daboll confirmed will start against the Rams.
The Giants can attempt to play spoiler on a good Rams team. Would it be poetic if Jalin Hyatt caught a game-winning touchdown against the Rams - the team Daboll called for a trade-up in last year’s draft?
Perhaps. Taylor’s penchant to keep his eyes downfield led to the longest pass of the season against the Eagles, as Darius Slayton received a 69-yard touchdown. Hyatt hasn’t had a catch since the Green Bay game, and he didn’t receive a target last week. It would be a nice storyline if he had a quality game against a team like the Rams.
The Rams’ offense aligns in 11 personnel on over 90% of snaps. They average 23.8 points per game (8th in the NFL), with an average of 363.9 yards per game (7th in the NFL). The Rams rank 10th in the NFL in passing yards with an average of 241.9, and they rank tenth in rushing yards with an average of 122.1 RYPG.
Quarterback Matt Stafford has thrown for 3,648 yards with 23 touchdowns and nine interceptions. In my opinion, he is still one of the more underrated quarterbacks in the NFL. McVay does an amazing job marrying his rushing and passing attacks, and making them look similar, which results in a dangerous play-action passing attack.
McVay leans on running back Kyren Williams, who has 1,057 rushing yards with nine touchdowns in just 11 games. Williams is a capable, smart, runner who offers Stafford a good option in space for checkdowns. Williams has 30 catches for 192 yards with three receiving touchdowns on the season.
The rise of rookie fifth-round pick Puka Nacua revitalized the Rams offense, and provided McVay a much-needed second option behind Cooper Kupp. For several reasons, the 2022 Rams struggled, and one could surmise the loss of Robert Woods affected the offense, and veteran Allen Robinson could not fill the void. Nacua filled the void, and then some.
Nacua has 96 catches on 139 targets (69.1%) for 1,327 yards with five touchdowns. He poses a unique problem for defenses who look to eliminate Kupp as the primary threat. Kupp missed several games this season, but does have 55 catches for 710 yards and four touchdowns in eleven games.
Demarcus Robinson has four touchdowns in four consecutive games and his snap-share has risen significantly. McVay does alternate Tutu Atwell - who started the season in 11 personnel - but it does appear Robinson has seized the role for now. Robinson has 20 catches for 279 yards and four touchdowns on the season. His first game with more than two catches was Week 13 against Cleveland.
Tyler Higbee is the Rams' tight end, but rookie Davis Allen has received more work in recent weeks. Both are big bodied physical tight ends, but Allen provides slightly more juice. The Rams typically deviate from 11 personnel only in short yardage and goalline.
The Rams' capable offensive line consists of Alaric Jackson at left tackle, rookie Steve Avila at left guard, Coleman Shelton at center, Kevin Dotson at right guard, and Rob Havenstein at right tackle. Jackson leads the team in pressures allowed (36) but has only allowed one sack. Overall, the offensive line is adequate.
Giants’ game plan
Under Wink Martindale, the Giants have done a solid overall job against zone rushing teams with an immobile quarterback. The addition of Bobby Okereke and the development of Micah McFadden has improved the Giants’ ability to effectively fit power-gap, which the Rams have run more often in recent weeks.
McVay, who is typically associated with outside-zone runs, may look to run counter against the Giants’ 5-0 BASE front when the Giants opt to employ BASE. Against an 11-personnel team like the Rams, I expect the Giants to match with nickel 2-4-5 or 3-3-5 to get more speed on the field.
The Giants’ 5-0 looks could pose mismatches for the Rams in protection, for Los Angeles would respond with man-protection that could be exploited by Dexter Lawrence. However, the Giants will likely use nickel in those obvious 11-personnel passing situations, and Lawrence’s injury has precluded him from a larger snap-share - this, likely, makes Matt Stafford quite happy.
Deep crossing routes have been a problem for the Giants in man coverage. DeVante Smith torched Cor’Dale Flott for a long touchdown, as the Giants rolled safety Xavier McKinney over A.J. Brown. New York could look to focus on either Kupp or Nacua, and Stafford is sharp enough to notice that tendency and attack the one-on-one matchup that doesn't have coverage rolled.
New York was creative against Philadelphia, and it didn’t really work. I expect a more simple approach from Wink Martindale. However, stopping the run and handling the play-action passing game must be a priority for the Giants. The Giants should do better against the run without the threat of Hurts to worry about.
Stafford has been dialed in against the blitz this season. He has thrown for 1,034 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions against the blitz. Martindale may pick and choose his blitzes wisely against Stafford with a healthy Nacua and Kupp.
The Rams are a very formidable team who have a lot at stake. They received extra rest, but are traveling across the country for a possible nasty weather New Year’s Eve game. If the weather is rough, that may throw off the efficiency of the passing attack. Still, the Rams should handle the Giants, but I don’t expect New York to roll over as veteran Tyrod Taylor looks to earn his second win of the season.