LOS ANGELES RAMS (5-2) AT NEW YORK GIANTS (1-6)
SERIES HISTORY: 42nd regular-season meeting. Rams lead series, 25-16. The Giants have won the last seven meetings dating back to 2002; prior to that, the Rams had won five in a row. The teams last met in 2016 at Twickenham Stadium in London, where the Giants won 27-10. This is the first meeting hosted by the Giants since 2011, a 37-27 Giants win.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Rams' 5-2 start has been constructed in the most basic of ways: Play efficient, balanced offense, defend and play strong special teams.
Their success moving forward will rely on those same principles. So expect a heavy dose of Todd Gurley, mixed with high-percentage throws by Jared Goff, to build a lead, then the Rams will attack the Giants with a fierce defensive line that has done an outstanding job bottling up the run and pressuring quarterbacks into mistakes.
The Rams' offensive line has been a brick wall for Goff, who has quieted critics who began to whisper "bust."
The mojo of the New York defense from last year has clearly worn off. Aside from injuries to defensive end Olivier Vernon and linebackers B.J. Goodson and Keenan Robinson, the Giants just aren't attacking the ball with the same vigor they did last year. That needs to change.
If there were ever an opportunity for the passing offense to get untracked, this would appear to be the week. The Rams' pass defense is ranked 24th in the league, allowing 205 yards per game. The Giants will need to get their relatively inexperienced receivers more involved. Since Week 6, Tavarres King, Travis Rudolph and Roger Lewis have caught seven of 21 pass targets for 67 yards and one touchdown. The potential return of Sterling Shepard could help.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Rams RB Todd Gurley vs. Giants run defense. After a sluggish second season in which he finished with 885 yards on 278 carries, Gurley, the Rams' first-round pick in 2015 is on pace to finish with over 1,000 rushing yards this season if he stays healthy. Averaging 4.3 yards per carry, and 131 all-purpose yards per game (second in the league), Gurley will go against the Giants' struggling run defense, which has allowed a 100-yard rusher in every game except one this season, and which is allowing opponents an average of 120.7 rushing yards per game (23rd in the league).
--Giants K Aldrick Rosas vs. Rams kickoff return team. Rams special teams coordinator John Fassel, son of former Giants coach Jim Fassel, is known for his creativity in optimizing what he has against the weaknesses of the opponent. Not surprisingly, Fassel's group is tied for the league lead with 13 kickoff returns of more than 20 yards. It also is one of two teams to return a kickoff for a touchdown this season -- a 103-yard return by Pharoh Cooper. Rosas, a first-year, big-legged kicker, leads the league with his 66.2-yard average on kickoffs and has done a nice job with height and distance to negate big returns. He'll have to keep up that pace and hope his supporting cast doesn't overcommit or get fooled by Fassel's return schemes.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Giants WR Sterling Shepard. Shepard appears to be back on track toward returning to the starting lineup after missing the last two games with an ankle injury. However, thanks to the injuries at the other wide receiver spots, Shepard could see more snaps as an outside receiver rather than in his customary slot receiver role. According to Pro Football Focus, Shepard has lined up 215 times this season in the slot and only 56 times outside.
FAST FACTS: In his past three road games, Rams QB Jared Goff is 3-0 with six TD passes and no interceptions (a 111.4 rating). ... RB Todd Gurley ranks third in the NFL with 920 scrimmage yards and is tied for the lead with eight TDs. In his past three road games, he has 484 scrimmage yards (161.3 per game) and four TDs. ... WR Cooper Kupp ranks fourth among rookie receivers with 316 yards and is tied for second with three TD catches. ... DT Aaron Donald has two sacks in his past three road games. His 31 sacks since 2014 are the most among NFL DTs. ... Giants QB Eli Manning has 1,366 passing yards (273.2 per game), 12 TDs and one interception in five career meetings. He has 49,814 career yards and needs 186 to become the seventh QB in NFL history with 50,000. ... RB Orleans Darkwa has 250 scrimmage yards (83.3 per game) and a TD in his past three games. Had rushed for a score in the 2014 meeting. ... Rookie TE Evan Engram has caught a TD pass in two of three home games. He ranks first among rookie TEs with 30 receptions and 342 yards and is tied for the lead with three TDs. ... WR Sterling Shepard has four receiving TDs in his past seven at home. ... DE Jason Pierre-Paul has 4.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in his past six games. He has two sacks in three career meetings.
PREDICTION: This is a battle of the haves vs. the have-nots -- and the Giants have not enough good players to overcome the league's No. 2 scoring club.
OUR PICK: Rams, 27-17.