6 keys to victory in Week 17

This Sunday, the New York Giants return to East Rutherford to host the Los Angeles Rams at MetLife Stadium.

The Tommy DeVito trial is over and Tyrod Taylor has returned as starting quarterback with Daniel Jones’ season ended several weeks ago. After winning three in a row, the Giants dropped their last two and ended any thought of a postseason run.

Still, the season isn’t over and the Giants don’t want to end on a sour note. The Rams present a challenge the Giants haven’t seen yet this season with a veteran quarterback, a breakout rookie wide receiver, and a sophomore running back who is second in the league in rushing.

That said, there are six keys to the Giants earning a win at home in Week 17.

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Protecting the quarterback has been one of the keys almost every single week for a reason. The Giants lead the league in sacks allowed with 77, and the 425 sack yards are third-worst. It’s truly no wonder that the offense has struggled this season — it’s hard to be successful when the line can’t block or pass protect.

If the Giants want a shot at beating the Rams, they have to protect Taylor. Period.

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The Rams have the fourth-best rush defense in the NFL. The Giants’ ground game is based around a single player, and while Saquon Barkley is a dynamic threat, he’s not enough this week.

Taylor has to find his wide receivers and he has to get them accurate passes to move the ball down the field. The run game absolutely has its place, but the Giants’ ability to pass the ball will dictate the outcome of this game.

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Special teams are probably the Rams’ biggest weakness.

Mason Crosby joined the Giants to take over kicking duties and is a solid veteran who is capable of making kicks from almost anywhere on the field. Jamie Gillan is questionable on Sunday, but as long as the special teams crew is consistent and doesn’t make silly mistakes, they can help the Giants win the field position battle.

The Giants have one of the worst offenses in the NFL, so if special teams plays set up the offense with a short field, the likelihood of scoring points goes up.

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It’s no secret that Matthew Stafford is a pocket passer. He’s not a fan of running the ball and has recorded just 66 rushing yards this season. But the Rams’ organization knows this and Stafford is very well protected. He’s been sacked just 26 times this season, making him the third-best-protected quarterback in the league.

This key won’t be an easy one for the Giants’ defense, but the more pressure they can get on Stafford, the more likely he is to throw the ball away. He will scramble if he has to, but it’s not his first choice. Keep him under fire.

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It’s not just Cooper Kupp anymore. In fact, he’s not even the top guy this year. Stafford has a selection of receivers to choose from and the Giants defense must be prepared for all of them. Puka Nacua is the top guy this year, which is a byproduct of teams doubling down on Kupp. Nacua is a rookie so no one knew what to expect from him this season.

But now we do. He’s an explosive, dynamic receiver who is incredibly talented. It’s not just about him and Kupp either, though. Tutu Atwell, Tyler Higbee, Demarcus Robinson and even running back Kyren Williams have all been targeted by Stafford.

Wink Martindale needs to have his defense prepared for any of them.

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As a rookie, Kyren Williams was underwhelming with just 35 carries for 139 yards. This year, though, Williams is the second-ranked running back in the NFL, behind only Christian McCaffrey. He’s easily as big a threat as Barkley in that he can play anywhere on the field. He’s going to get the ball on Sunday, a lot.

The Giants have to figure out a way to keep him somewhat contained or it’s going to be a long game on Sunday.

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