The Giants (1-6) vs. the Los Angeles Rams (5-2) at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on Sunday, Nov. 5, at 1 p.m. ET.
That dark cloud that's been hovering over the Giants all season? Yeah, it'll be there Sunday. The forecast calls for "considerable cloudiness" and intermittent rain with a temperature in the low 60s. As if the crowd wasn't going to be small enough for this one ...
WHAT IT MEANS
There are really two ways this season can go for head coach Ben McAdoo. His team can show some fight, keep the games competitive and maybe steal a win or two. Or his team can surrender and start getting blown out. Now that they're back from their bye, whichever way they start out is likely where the rest of the games are headed. They are very undermanned now, and they know they have nothing to play for, so motivation won't be easy. Neither will be responding when things go wrong (and things will go wrong). It will be a test of McAdoo's coaching and leadership ability. How the team reacts may determine whether he keeps his job.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Giants WR Sterling Shepard. He's missed the last two games with a sprained ankle, but now he returns to possibly rescue a passing attack that already lost Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall for the season. Without Shepard, the Giants' receiving corps was a bunch of nobodies with no experience -- and it showed. In the last two games, the Giants totaled 249 passing yards. That's not a misprint. That's a two-game total. Can a healthy Shepard provide a boost? He's probably not dynamic enough to do it alone, though he'll pretty much have to do it alone. If nothing else, he'll give Eli Manning someone reliable to throw to which could cause offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan to lean on the passing game a little more than he has in the last two games. It could open up the running game a little bit too. Basically, the return of a competent receiver couldn't hurt. It remains to be seen how much it can help.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Rams DT Aaron Donald vs. the interior of the Giants OL (center Brett Jones and guards John Jerry and D.J. Fluker). New York's tackles have been the ones causing the most problems this season for the offensive line, but it's the guards and center that get their turn in the spotlight this week with perhaps the best interior pass rusher in the NFL. Jones, at center, has played well in the absence of Weston Richburg (concussion), and Fluker has been one of the Giants' best linemen since being inserted into the lineup. But stopping Donald is another matter altogether. He certainly is capable of disrupting what's left of the Giants' passing attack (he has three sacks in six games), but his ability to disrupt the run might be more problematic for the Giants. The Giants have to run to be successful in this, and pretty much every game, and Donald can be a Damon Harrison-like, one-man, run-wrecking crew. A lot of the stress for this will be on Jones, but he likely will have help from either side every time Donald lines up across from him in this game.
This is pretty much all you need to know: The Rams are averaging more than 30 points per game this season. The Giants haven't scored 30 since Jan. 3, 2015, the last game of the Tom Coughlin era (a 35-30 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles). The Giants actually have scored 30 points combined in the last two games, and that included a defensive touchdown. They're averaging 16 points per game overall, and that includes all the games when they had Beckham. So, yeah, the Giants are overmatched here. And it won't help that they're missing two offensive linemen -- Richburg and RT Justin Pugh (back) -- in a game in which they have to deal with Donald. I suppose the Giants' defense could slow the Rams down.
But why would anyone count on that now? The Giants defense ranks 27th in the NFL, a far cry from the top-10 defense that they expected to have. And they'll be missing four starters: DE Olivier Vernon (ankle), LB B.J. Goodson (ankle), LB Jonathan Casillas (neck) and CB Janoris Jenkins (suspension). That's not a good recipe for stopping Todd Gurley -- or anyone really. This is a mess of a team and a bad mismatch. Maybe the weather can slow the Rams down a little. If not, hide your eyes. … Rams 33, Giants 13.
MY RECORD: 3-4
MY RECORD WHEN PICKING THE GIANTS TO WIN: 0-3
MY RECORD WHEN PICKING THE GIANTS TO LOSE: 3-1