The game between the New York Giants and Los Angeles Rams represented two teams going in opposite directions.
The Rams were a below-average team a season ago. The Giants were contenders for the NFC crown.
This season was not expected to be different. The Giants brought in Brandon Marshall to help their offense. The Rams were in transition with a new head coach and a second-year quarterback who struggled mightily during his first season.
Sunday was a culmination of everything that has happened in the first half of the season. The Rams look like a team that could contend in a wide-open NFC. The Giants? If they had not already hit rock bottom, they certainly did in Week 9.
Here are five things we learned as the Rams coasted to victory.
1. Eli Manning is toast in New York
This is not to blame Manning for all of the Giants’ struggles. He has certainly played his part in the Giants being one of the most disappointing teams in football. Manning is one of the most controversial players in the NFL. Those who love him will defend him to the grave. Those who hate him insist that he lucked his way into two Super Bowl rings.
By bringing in Brandon Marshall, the Giants made the statement that they were all in for the end of Manning’s career. Instead of contending, however, the Giants never got off the ground.
Losing Odell Beckham Jr, and Brandon Marshall for the season did not help. The Giants were already 0-4 by the time those two players were lost for the season.
The Giants are now 1-7. Their playoff hopes are shot. That forces them to look to the future. Reality, as tough as it may be to accept, shows that the next time the Giants contend, Manning will not be part of the effort. The Giants should do plenty of homework to find their next quarterback.
2. Sean McVay is the front-runner for Coach of the Year
With all due respect to Doug Pederson and other coaches around the league, nobody expected this from the Rams. When anyone discussed the Rams, they brought up the fact that McVay was a young head coach. Little, if anything, was said about how the Rams will perform this season. The division was largely conceded to Seattle.
Jared Goff looked lost for much of his rookie campaign. Some pundits were even willing to label him a bust. Now, the Rams are in the thick of the race for not just the NFC West, but the entire conference. The NFC is wide open. The Rams have as good a chance as any team to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
That was unexpected. For that reason, McVay should be an easy front-runner for NFL Coach of the Year.
3. Ben McAdoo could be in trouble
When a team goes all in and does not meet expectations, there’s a price to be paid. The Giants losing is not the only reason McAdoo could be in trouble. There has been drama at every turn. Janoris Jenkins missed Sunday’s game due to violating a team rule. That’s the second suspension of its kind this season.
While Jenkins and Dominiqe Rodgers-Cromartie have been suspended, others have been allowed to do as they please. Beckham is an example. While he’s a great player, it often appears he is allowed to do as he pleases. McAdoo is likely a good X-and-O coach. He appears to struggle with the big market that is New York City.
Add the earlier point about the Giants looking for another quarterback, and it could create a quick exit for McAdoo following this season.
4. Evan Engram is a find
While Brandon Marshall got the majority of the attention this offseason, the Giants selected Evan Engram in the NFL Draft. The hope was that he could be a contributor later in the season. The Giants could afford to move him along slowly with the other weapons they had in their offense. With the injuries to the majority of those players, the Giants had to rush Engram into action.
He has delivered. He has been Manning’s most consistent target since Beckham and Marshall were lost for the season. He’s a new-age tight end who plays off the line of scrimmage. He’s been excellent. While most of the season has been a disaster for the Giants, Engram’s progress is a beacon of hope for the future.
5. Tavon Austin finding work
Austin’s contract is often brought up when discussing worst contracts in football. Austin was underutilized under Jeff Fisher. The team tried to make him something he was not.
With McVay in the fold as the head coach, Austin is finding work. Some weeks he’s the primary slot receiver. This week he was the change-of-pace back to Todd Gurley. The modern NFL is about getting the ball in the hands of playmakers, no matter how they get it. McVay and his staff have found ways to get Austin the ball. He can be a special player with the ball. It’s just another weapon at Jared Goff’s disposal.
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