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Matthew Stafford leading Rams’ playoff push, while Giants sort out QB position

Dec 21, 2023; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) throws against the New Orleans Saints during the first half at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams will take their late-season playoff push to the East Coast with a key matchup against the New York Giants on Sunday at East Rutherford, N.J.

The Rams enter with quarterback Matthew Stafford performing at a high level, while the Giants are in the midst of another QB change with Tyrod Taylor set to return into a starting role ahead of rookie Tommy DeVito.

The Rams (8-7) have won five of their last six games to climb out of a 3-6 hole and could clinch a playoff spot in Week 17 with a win and a Seattle Seahawks loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. A more indirect route is a Rams win and a tie in the game between the Minnesota Vikings and Green Packers.

Those scenarios were unthinkable when the Rams fell 20-3 to the Green Bay Packers in Week 9 when Stafford was out with a thumb injury. A well-placed bye week came next, followed by Stafford’s high-level play starting in a Week 11 victory over the Seahawks.

Over the past six games, Stafford has completed 65.1 percent of his passes for 1,578 yards, 15 touchdowns and two interceptions.

“We’ve had (high) stakes since we came back from the bye (and) we earned the opportunity to be at this point,” Stafford said. “Just proud of the way these guys have put their head down, gone to work, trusted each other, and it’s showing up.”

Two seasons after Stafford helped Cooper Kupp to the wide-receiver triple crown, he is on the verge of helping Puka Nacua to a pair of rookie records. Nacua needs to catch nine more passes for the rookie receptions record. He needs 128 receiving yards for the Super Bowl-era rookie record and 146 yards for the all-time rookie record.

Kupp has 22 of his 55 receptions over the past three games, while Nacua has 19 over the same span.

And there have been more Stafford throws to go around, with Demarcus Robinson delivering season-bests of six receptions and 82 yards in a 30-22 victory over the New Orleans Saints last Thursday. He has a TD reception in four consecutive games.

The Rams’ emerging defense has allowed an average of 18.2 points per game over the past five wins.

The Giants (5-10) were on a three-game winning streak before a pair of losses knocked them out of playoff contention. In a 33-25 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday, Taylor replaced DeVito to open the second half and was 7 of 16 for 133 yards, one touchdown and one interception. DeVito was 9 of 16 for 55 yards.

“I try to stay as level as possible through the highs and the lows,” Taylor said. “Life is a rollercoaster. How you endure the storms and how you endure the ups and downs speaks to your character. So try to remain the same.”

Taylor was 1-1 during a pair of October starts, then left in the second quarter of a 13-10 loss to the Jets on Oct. 29 with an injury to his ribs that required an overnight stay in a hospital. New York finished with minus-9 passing yards that day in wet and windy conditions.

“I’ve been playing this game for a long time, and anytime I get a chance to lace up the cleats and go out and compete means the world to me,” Taylor said. “That’s where I’m the happiest, and it’s what I love to do.”

The Rams are as healthy as they have been all season, with defensive back Tre’Vius Tomlinson (hamstring) and offensive tackle Joe Noteboom (foot) missing practice Wednesday. Noteboom is likely to play.

For the Giants, defensive back Deonte Banks (shoulder), tight end Lawrence Cager (groin) and defensive linemen Dexter Lawrence (hamstring), A’Shawn Robinson (back) and Rakeem Nunez-Roches (knee) all were listed as “did not participate.” Running back Saquon Barkley (elbow) and wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson (quad) were limited.

–Field Level Media

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