By Cedric Williams
After playing last Thursday and enjoying a weekend off that some around the league call the “mini-bye,” the St. Louis Rams will be back at work on Tuesday to begin preparations for their final home game of the season this Sunday, when they’ll host the New York Giants at the Edward Jones Dome.
The Rams will come into Sunday’s matchup looking to bounce back from last week’s disappointing 12-6 Thursday Night Football loss to the NFC West leading Arizona Cardinals. The Giants will hit town on a bit of a roll after winning two straight following a seven-game losing streak during the months of October and November.
“The players are going to take a deep breath this weekend,” Head Coach Jeff Fisher said Friday during his regular day-after-the-game meeting with the media at Rams Park. “Take a few days off, come back ready to work and we’ll get ready for the Giants. That’s our focus. I’m not going to make any significant roster moves or play anybody here or there. We’re play this group throughout. We’ve got lessons to learn and we still have some improvement to do. So that’s going to be our focus.”
If the Rams can win on Sunday and then finish the season with a victory in Seattle on December 28, St. Louis would end the year 8-8, which would mark the franchise’s first non-losing season since 2006. St. Louis’ last winning season was in 2003, when the club went 12-4 and won the NFC West Division title.
New York on Offense
The Giants are ranked 14th in total offense this season and are averaging 345.8 yards per game. Most of that damage has been done through the air, where New York averages 246.9 yards per game.
Quarterback Eli Manning is having another fine season for the Giants. He probably won’t make the Pro Bowl like he did in 2008, 2011, and 2012, but the two-time Super Bowl champion is currently 10th in the league in passing, with 3,590 yards and 26 touchdowns.
Manning has also cut back on his league-worst 27 interceptions from 2013, though he will come into Sunday tied for the fifth-most with 13 picks this year.
New York’s most dynamic player on offense this season has been rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who despite playing in only 10 games leads all NFL rookies in catches (71), yards (972), and touchdowns (nine).
Just last week, Beckham delivered one of his best performances of the season with 143 yards and career highs of 12 catches and three touchdowns.
New York’s top two rushers are veteran Rashad Jennings (606 yards, four touchdowns) and rookie Andre Williams (568 yards, six touchdowns).
New York on Defense
Defensively, the Giants have been scuffling near the bottom of the barrel, with a 26th overall ranking in yards allowed per game (371.4) and a 20th overall ranking in points allowed per game (24.2).
New York’s top tackler is linebacker Jameel McClain, who has 101 total tackles (62 solo) this season. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul leads the team with 9.5 sacks, but is followed closely by second-year defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, who has 7 sacks.
In the secondary, safeties Quintin Demps and Antrel Rolle lead the way with a combined 127 tackles and seven interceptions (four for Demps, three for Rolle).
New York on Special Teams
In the kicking game, New York features a pair of wily veterans at punter and kicker. Ninth-year man Steve Weatherford (Illinois) is averaging 45.6 yards per punt this season and has had 23 of his boots downed inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, while kicker Josh Brown — the former Ram — is second in the league in field goal percentage (94.4 percent) with 17 makes in 18 attempts.
Beckham is New York’s main punt return guy. He averages 8.1 yards per return, while fellow receiver Preston Parker is the Giants’ top kickoff return man at 24.5 yards per return.
The Rams lead the all-time series 26-15, but the Giants have won each of the last five matchups, including a 41-13 blowout back in 2008, which was the last time the teams’ met in St. Louis.
For more Rams news and updates, visit Rams Central.
Cedric Williams, a lifelong St. Louisan and proud UMSL alum, has been a freelance reporter/photographer covering St. Louis area sports for nearly two decades. Most recently, he has been working as a credentialed beat writer covering the Rams and small-school college sports for Examiner.com and other outlets from around the area. Please share any comments, questions, or feedback with Cedric at firstname.lastname@example.org. His work can be found on Examiner.com.