Key Matchups: St Louis Rams Vs New York Giants

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The penultimate game of the 2014 regular season sees St Louis host the New York Giants in what could be, if some of the rumours are to be believed, the Rams final ever game in the Edward Jones Dome. Whilst the will-they-won’t-they discussion over a franchise relocation will continue to be the subject of numerous other articles over the next few months, Jeff Fisher and his team still have two more fixtures to fulfil, beginning on Saturday against a Giants team that has won two games on the spin. While this game is meaningless in terms of playoff ambitions, both sets of players will want to end the season with as much pride as possible. For the Rams to edge out New York, here is this week’s selection of the key one-on-one matchups.

Eli Manning vs Robert Quinn

Despite much criticism for inconsistency this season, it would be foolish to dismiss Manning’s capabilities. In 2014 his pass completion rate of 63.2% is the highest of his 11-year career and has a quarterback rating in the 90’s for only the third time. With 3590 yards so far he is only just outside the league’s top ten, and if he maintains that pace through the Giants final two games he will reach 4188 yards – the second highest total of his career behind the 2011 season, which saw the Giants lift the Lombardi trophy and Manning himself collect his second career Super Bowl MVP award. On his day, Manning is a world-beater. Unfortunately for the Giants, these days have been few and far between of late. Part of Manning’s problem has been the poor offensive line in front of him, allowing 27 sacks and in which left tackle William Beatty (+11.8) is the solitary player among the group with a positive grading according to Pro Football Focus. Hoping to take advantage will be Rams leading pass rusher, Robert Quinn. Looking on pace to make the Pro Bowl for a second consecutive season Quinn unsurprisingly leads the Rams sack count with 10.5, reaching double figures for the third year in a row. Look for Quinn to consistently apply pressure to Manning and push the Giants offense in the wrong direction with a handful of sacks.

Odell Beckham Jr vs EJ Gaines

Justifiably in the conversation for Rookie of the Year and currently PFF’s third highest grading wide receiver at +16.0, Beckham looks to be fully worth the first round draft pick the Giants used to acquire his services this April. The former LSU star needs just 28 yards on the season to break the 1000 mark on what we can reasonably predict to be, barring a major injury or a spectacular turnaround in performance, the first of many times Beckham will pass this milestone. Most famously demonstrated with THAT catch, Beckham’s athleticism is a daunting prospect for opposing defensive backs. Meeting the challenge will be another rookie, Rams 6th-rounder EJ Gaines. Gaines has allowed just a single touchdown pass to be thrown against his coverage, and has given up only 245 total yards after catch all season (18th among 110 cornerbacks in the league). With only one inch separating the two in height and a variance of just 0.08 seconds in their pre-draft 40-yard dash times, the physical matchup here is very close. Rams fans will be hoping Gaines can keep Beckham quiet and prevent a repeat of his week 12 showstopper on Sunday.

Tre Mason vs Johnathan Hankins

Last week’s 33-yard performance by Tre Mason against the Cardinals was symptomatic of the Rams’ poor show on offence. While some Rams fans may have been stung by post-game comments from the Arizona Head Coach about seeing ‘a good defence’ in the singular (sorry Mr Arians, how many touchdowns did you score?), unquestionably Mason was not the only member of the Rams offence to be well and truly shut down last Thursday night. This week there is hope of much more success on the ground facing a Giants’ defence that currently ranks 29th in the league against the run, allowing a last-place 4.9 yards per carry. Standing out by some distance for New York against opposing running backs is second year man from Ohio State, Johnathan Hankins. Pro Football Focus currently has Hankins graded 5th in the league amongst all defensive tackles at +23.2. With 11 tackles for loss this season he has become a real force on the Giants defensive line. With Scott Wells’ best years arguably behind him (currently graded 40th of 41 centers on PFF at -25.7), there will be concerns over how Mankins will be prevented from coming straight up the middle and stopping Mason in his tracks before he gets going. Rams fans will hope Mason’s own trickiness and speed will allow him to burst past Mankins and pick up some big yardage.