New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones throws during the first half of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Corey Sipkin)
INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) Although Joe Judge is still looking for his first victory as the New York Giants' head coach, he already has a win over Sean McVay and the Los Angeles Rams that was so big, he got a ring for it.
Judge was New England's special teams coordinator when the Patriots beat the Rams 13-3 in the Super Bowl 20 months ago. He moved on last year to a rebuilding job with the Giants (0-3) that's even more massive than it seemed, if the results of New York's three mostly miserable games this season are any indication.
When New York visits brand-new SoFi Stadium on Sunday, Judge doesn't think he'll get much of an advantage out of his knowledge of the Rams (2-1) from two seasons ago, or from his more recent conversations with McVay when he was seeking tips on how to succeed as a first-time head coach.
''Obviously there's some information I gathered, but I'll tell you right now, Sean is always evolving,'' Judge said. ''He's always changing. He's always improving and getting better. What we may have game-planned based on another club I was with will have nothing to do with what we do going forward here.''
McVay's evolution also seems like a revitalization. He acknowledged being exhausted last season by that Super Bowl run and the subsequent short offseason, but several months spent mostly at home this year left McVay clearly re-energized for his job, and the results have shown up on the field.
Despite losing Todd Gurley and Brandin Cooks, and despite only replacing them with rookies who haven't yet made a mark, McVay's offense is off to a strong start. The Rams have gained at least 400 yards in all three games, with Jared Goff putting up strong passing numbers to complement a revitalized running attack.
The Rams are heavy favorites in their second game at their new football palace, but they don't seem overconfident. Los Angeles is still smarting from last week's trip to Buffalo, in which it rallied from a 25-point deficit before losing in the final minute.
The Rams' first taste of defeat left McVay praising his team's resilience and tenacity, and the Giants provide an opportunity to back it up.
''They just kept battling,'' McVay said. ''They just kept swinging. We're a tough group, a mentally tough group. We're going to use this (week) as an opportunity to respond, and we're not going to allow the Bills to beat us twice.''
Here are more things to know about the Giants' first game in the Los Angeles area since 1994:
HERE COMES 99
Aaron Donald has three sacks and eight quarterback hits in the Rams' first three games. The NFL's premier interior defensive linemen could feast on Giants left guard Will Hernandez or center Nick Gates, who have both struggled this season.
''This guy will really ruin your birthday party in a hurry,'' Judge said.
New York undoubtedly will send multiple blockers at Donald, but this week seems a prime opportunity to see evidence of McVay's biggest takeaway from watching film of the Rams' loss in Buffalo: ''Aaron Donald is a freak.''
The Rams and Giants are on different ends of the statistical spectrum on offense. Los Angeles is in the NFL's top four in total yards (449.7), rushing (170.3), third-down conversions (56.41) and time of possession (33:01) while averaging 29.7 points per game. Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett's injury-plagued group is in the bottom three in total yards (273.3), rushing (56.7), red zone (33.33), time of possession (24:41) and points (12.7).
The Giants have a total of three touchdowns, and they haven't had a lead since the first half of their season opener. They didn't run a play in the red zone last week against San Francisco, and their leading rusher is their quarterback.
''We have to do a better job controlling the ball, and turnovers play a big part in that,'' said quarterback Daniel Jones, who also has six turnovers. ''It's tough to win when you're turning over the ball as much as we have.''
HENDO ON THE RUN
While the Giants can't run the ball, the Rams are moving it tremendously on the ground in their first three games since releasing Todd Gurley last spring. Darrell Henderson grabbed the starting job last week and promptly surpassed his career high in yards rushing for the second straight game. New York's unimpressive group of linebackers will have to bring down LA's relentless ball-carrier to keep the Giants in the game.
The Giants' defense is not getting off the field. Against the 49ers last weekend, New York got exactly one stop while allowing seven scores. Pat Graham's defense is tied for 12th in total yards (357.7), but has allowed opponents to convert on 58.14% of third-down chances, worst in the NFL.
Oh, and the Rams have converted 56.4% of their third downs, tops in the NFL by a significant margin.
''It's not good, it's not the standard, it's unacceptable,'' defensive back Logan Ryan said. ''You just have to do better. Football isn't easy, but it's simple. You have to get off the field. The best defense you can play is on the bench, honestly. We just have to get off the field and give our offense the ball.''
Five Sleepers: Week 7
Detroit Lions LB Jarrad Davis received reps with the first-team defense during practice Friday, Oct. 23, and could be in line to see increased playing time after being successful in a limited role.
Las Vegas Raiders S Jeff Heath appears to be the leading candidate to start at strong safety in place of SS Johnathan Abram for Week 7's contest against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After being on the field for an average of just 10 percent of the team's defensive snaps through the first four games, Heath began to see more playing time in Week 6's loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, when he was on the field for 42 percent of the Raiders' defensive plays.
New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley (knee) is scheduled to undergo reconstructive surgery on his anterior cruciate ligament next week and doctors are optimistic that he will be ready for training camp. Barkley needed to wait for his medial collateral ligament injury to heal before he was eligible to undergo ACL surgery.
San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch has both made and received calls about WR Dante Pettis recently, although no deal appears imminent, according to head coach Kyle Shanahan.
The Las Vegas Raiders defense has been statistically one of the worst defenses in the league this season. They are averaging under two fantasy points per game and face an ascending Buccaneers offense this week. Tom Brady is currently fourth in the league in passing touchdowns, and this Tampa Bay offense is ascending after hanging 31 offensive points on Green Bay in Week 6. The Raiders rank 27th in scoring defense and 24th in yards allowed. There is nothing to suggest they will have a good performance this week and should be kept on the bench or dropped entirely.
Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller has a tough test against the Buccaneers this week, but he should be able to produce a solid fantasy performance. Waller has been great at home this season, with 21 catches, 193 yards, and a touchdown in two games. The Buccaneers have one of the league's best defenses, but the Patriots are the only team to hold Waller under five catches so far this season. He currently ranks third in fantasy points per game among tight ends, and he leads the Raiders in targets. The Buccaneers rank sixth in the league against tight ends, but fantasy owners should feel comfortable starting him based on his performances so far this season.
Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Henry Ruggs III will have a tough matchup against a good Buccaneers secondary in Week 7. Ruggs had a breakout performance in his last game against the Chiefs, but his value rests with the deep ball at this time. That is not great news considering the Buccaneers are one of the best defenses against the deep ball, ranking third in the league in allowing receptions of over 20 yards. He was able to get loose in the Chiefs secondary with a 72-yard reception in the first half but caught just one other pass the rest of the game. Ruggs' big-play potential makes him a fringe flex option in deeper leagues, but don't expect a lot of targets for the rookie this week.
Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs will face one of the league's best run defenses this week in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Buccaneers are allowing just three yards per carry and rank second in the league in total rushing yards allowed. Jacobs is having a productive year and is certainly a must-start option, but he is averaging just 3.6 yards per carry on the season. Jacobs has just one game this season where he has rushed for over four yards per carry. With that being said, he is still seventh in points per game among running backs. It will not be an easy day for Jacobs, but fantasy owners should feel encouraged that he can put up a solid fantasy performance despite a difficult matchup.
Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr will have one of his most difficult tests of the year against a great Buccaneers Defense. The Buccaneers defense has allowed just seven passing touchdowns and have grabbed eight interceptions in their six games this season. Opposing quarterbacks have a passer rating of 82 against this Todd Bowles defense. They confused Aaron Rodgers and made him uncomfortable, so this will not be an easy day for Carr. With that being said, Carr has thrown for almost 600 passing yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions in two home games this season. The Raiders are coming off a bye, and Carr is having a career year. However, he is likely a bench option this week due to the matchup.
Kansas City Chiefs RB Le'Veon Bell is expected to see some snaps against the Denver Broncos in Week 7.
Fantasy Spin: It is no surprise that the Chiefs plan to ease Bell into action. There is no denying his upside, but he needs to be left on the bench until his role and workload become clear.
New Orleans Saints WR Bennie Fowler (shoulder) was placed on the Reserve/Injured list Friday, Oct. 23.
The Philadelphia Eagles waived DE Daeshon Hall from the Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform list Friday, Oct. 23.
The Denver Broncos released DT Sylvester Williams Friday, Oct. 23.
The New Orleans Saints Defense faces a middle-of-the-pack matchup against the Carolina Panthers in Week 7. It's a date with former Saint Teddy Bridgewater, who started five games for the team in 2019. New Orleans' defense is finally starting to get healthy after a rash of injuries, as they will get Janoris Jenkins (shoulder) back and essentially be at full strength. This unit may start to put together some good performances, starting with this week. They can be used as a starting option.
New Orleans Saints kicker Wil Lutz faces a favorable matchup in Week 7 against the Carolina Panthers. Lutz is perfect on the season, having made all nine field-goals and all 18 extra-points. Carolina ranks 22nd in fantasy points allowed to kickers, making this a juicy matchup for Lutz. Expect strong fantasy numbers from the 26-year-old.
New Orleans Saints tight end Jared Cook could see more opportunities in Week 7 against the Panthers. Cook had one of his better games against the Chargers, catching two passes for 52 yards and a score. New Orleans is down two of it's best pass-catchers- Michael Thomas (ankle, hamstring) and Emmanuel Sanders (COVID-19)- heading into the contest against the Panthers. The veteran tight end should see more targets, making him a good start as a TE1 in Week 7.
Seattle Seahawks RB Carlos Hyde (shoulder, toe) fully participated in practice Friday, Oct. 23, and is not on the injury report for Week 7.
Fantasy Spin: Hyde will serve as the backup for Chris Carson but should see a handful of touches during the game. Fantasy players should be able to find better options and can keep Hyde on the bench.
San Francisco 49ers RB Raheem Mostert (ankle) did not participate in practice Friday, Oct. 23, and has been ruled out for Week 7.
Fantasy Spin: Mostert is expected to miss multiple weeks because of the injury, so fantasy players should look for other options to use. Jerick McKinnon and JaMycal Hasty likely will share playing time while Mostert is sidelined. McKinnon probably has more fantasy value and can be a flex option in leagues. Hasty should be rostered in leagues and has a chance to be a flex option depending on the opponent.
Los Angeles Chargers WR Keenan Allen (back) fully participated in practice Friday, Oct. 23, and is not on the injury report for Week 7.
Fantasy Spin: Allen has been targeted at least eight times in four of the five games this season and seems to have a good connection with Justin Herbert. Allen can be considered a No. 1 or No. 2 receiver in fantasy leagues.
Arizona Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins (ankle) was limited during practice Friday, Oct. 23, and is listed as questionable for Week 7.
Fantasy Spin: Hopkins likely will be able to play despite the injury, but fantasy players will need to check the inactive list for his status. He is a must-start option in all leagues if he is active for the game.