The St. Louis Rams will appear on Monday Night Football for the first time since 2006 in Week 2, visiting New York for the Giants' home opener. It will also be the first time the Giants have hosted a Monday night game since 2003.
St. Louis enters the game after getting throttled 31-13 at home by another NFC East team, the Philadelphia Eagles. The Rams were gashed for 239 rushing yards by the Eagles, who also went 8-11 on third downs.
It didn’t help St. Louis that star RB Stephen Jackson left the game with an injury after just two carries. And QB Sam Bradford, the reigning NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year, left in the fourth quarter after hitting his right index finger on a defender’s helmet.
The Giants, meanwhile, entered their opener ravaged by injuries on defense but were still a 2.5-point road favorite at Washington. But that shorthanded defense made Rex Grossman look like a Pro Bowler as the Skins won 28-14.
The Giants’ supposedly stacked running back punch of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs managed just 73 yards on the ground. Eli Manning was average at best, going 18-32 for 268 yards, an interception, and no touchdown.
Game Story Lines
Injuries are definitely the big story here, and you probably don’t want to put any money down until close to game time.
For the Rams, Bradford should be fine to play with what is being called a bruised finger. However, St. Louis lost last year’s top receiver, Danny Amendola, to a dislocated elbow against Philadelphia. The Rams already had one of the worst receiving groups in the NFL, so that one hurts.
Probably most important is Jackson’s status. He strained his right quadriceps on a 47-yard scoring run on the Rams' first offensive play of the season last Sunday. Jackson said Thursday the injury has improved, but he hasn't practiced this week as of this writing.
If he can’t play, Cadillac Williams would start. The former Tampa Bay running back had 91 yards rushing and 49 yards receiving versus the Eagles last week.
The Giants, who seem to have lost more players for the season than anyone during camp (all on defense), will not have defensive end Osi Umenyiora back yet.
However, fellow end Justin Tuck, easily the team’s best on defense, should play after sitting out Week 1 with a neck stinger. Tuck was limited in Thursday's practice but said afterward there was no soreness in his neck.
Wide receiver and emerging star Hakeem Nicks (knee) sat out of the early portion of practice Thursday but said he expects to play Monday night. Nicks is easily Manning’s top target, finishing the opener with seven catches for 122 yards. Nicks has 16 catches for 204 yards and two touchdowns in his last two Monday night games.
Another dominant storyline here surrounds Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo.
He was the Giants’ defensive coordinator in 2007 and 2008, including for their victory in Super Bowl XLII, in which Spagnuolo’s defense shut down that record-setting New England offense. He likes to blitz, as evidenced by the fact the Rams blitzed Michael Vick on 42.9 percent of the snaps last week.
The Giants have won their last four games against the Rams, but the teams haven’t played since Week 2 of the 2008 season.
Rams at Giants Betting Odds and Trends
New York is currently a six-point favorite (with about a 65 percent lean), and the total is at 44, according to NFL odds. St. Louis is 6-1 ATS in its past seven versus a team with a losing record. They are 8-2 ATS in their past 10 following an ATS loss, but they are also just 1-4 ATS in their past five overall.
The Giants are 4-1 ATS in their past five Monday games. But they are 0-4 ATS in their past four at home overall.
The over is 4-1 in the Rams’ past five as an underdog. The over is also 4-1 in the Giants’ past five home games. The Rams are 0-5 ATS in the past five meetings between these teams.
Monday Night Football Picks: Rams at Giants Predictions
I love the Giants here, especially if Jackson is out as expected. If Nicks and Tuck play, I like the Giants even more. Without a win, Tom Coughlin’s days could be numbered.
In the end, I'm going with the Giants and the under.