Are we sure that the Vikings and Giants aren't in the same division? Thanks to quirks and coincidences in the NFL scheduling formula, Sunday will mark the fourth straight year and the eleventh time in twelve years New York and Minnesota have faced off. At least the NFL shuffled things up a bit this time and didn't schedule Vikings vs. Giants as the last game of the season.
The Vikings have won the last four in this near-annual series, but the G-Men come to town with a three game advantage in the standings. So what should we expect from the Giants on Sunday? Well, who better to ask than Big Blue View head writer Ed Valentine? Ed was kind enough to answer some of the questions we had about our foes this Sunday. Let the Q&A begin:
Daily Norseman: While the Vikings have a wide receiver with the world's most scrutinized headaches and a quarterback who's running out of body parts to injure, the Giants seem to be getting healthy at the right time. What's the latest on the injuries to key offensive cogs David Diehl, Steve Smith, and Hakeem Nicks? Will they all be ready to go on Sunday?
Big Blue View: Diehl is listed as probable, and I would expect him to line up at left tackle against Jared Allen. Nicks and Smith are questionable, but both guys fully expect to play. The Giants can use all of them, especially the receivers. They have gotten by the past couple of weeks, but the types of things they have been able to do have been limited without all their weapons.
DN: The Giants have turned the ball over more than anyone else in he league--yes, even two more times than the team with Brett Favre as their quarterback. (But thanks to a league-best 30 takeaways from the defense, they're ten better than the Vikes in turnover margin and still very much in the playoff hunt.) Tom Coughlin teams are normally known for their discipline. What do you think has been the main cause of all the turnovers this season? Has it been lack of focus, poor decision making, bad luck, or all the above?
BBV: I don't know if there is one main cause. I do know it has driven Tom Coughlin crazy. He finally removed Ahmad Bradshaw from the starting lineup a couple of weeks ago after his sixth fumble. A couple of the interceptions have been bad decisions by Eli Manning. A whole bunch have been tipped balls that should have been completions that the wide receivers turned into picks, and a couple have been mistakes in routes by receivers. Some of it is guys like Bradshaw simply not recognizing when a play is over and trying to do too much. On the plus side, the Giants have only turned the ball over once in the last two weeks.
DN: New York's defense has seen a resurgence in 2010 after a disappointing campaign last year. Who has made the biggest difference on defense in your mind? Has Perry Fewell made that much of a difference at defensive coordinator over Bill Sheridan since the team lost defensive guru Steve Spagnuolo to St. Louis?
BBV: Fewell has made a huge difference. Bill Sheridan was simply in way over his head as a coordinator. The other thing is this is a much more talented group. They have three quality safeties in Kenny Phillips, Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant, whereas they had zero last season. They also have a healthy defensive line, and that is the group that has been the key to this defense since before Spagnuolo was around. Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck and, recently, Jason Pierre-Paul, have been phenomenal. Barry Cofield and Chris Canty have been good inside, as well.
DN: The double-barreled attack of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs has proven deadly this year, but the Vikings are still very tough against the run. How do you see the Giants' offense attacking Minnesota? Will they look to keep pounding the ball on the ground or will they take to the air more against the Vikings' shaky secondary?
BBV: Well, the Giants are all about balance. They will overload, they will use two tight ends, an extra offensive tackle, whatever it takes. But, they will try to run the ball. That said, with their weapons back at the receiver slots I would expect the Giants to put this game in Eli Manning's hands and see if they can take advantage of the Vikings on the outside.
DN: Name one New York player that isn't getting too much attention, yet will have a big impact on Sunday. Finally, give us your prediction on how you see the game playing out in the Metrodome. Does Eli Manning finally get his first win against Minnesota, or will the Vikings extend their winning streak over the Giants to five?
BBV: Jason Pierre-Paul, who I mentioned earlier. The No. 1 draft pick has been playing more and more in recent weeks, and he is turning into a monster. Umenyiora calls him a bigger version of DeMarcus Ware, and he might wind up being right. JPP has four sacks in the past two weeks, he's been batting down passes, getting downfield to recover fumbles, playing the run, covering kickoffs. The guy has been outstanding. As for the game, the Giants absolutely have to have it to keep pace in an incredibly difficult NFC playoff race. I think they get it, 27-17.
Thanks again to Ed for taking the time to let us learn more about the 2010 G-Men. Less than 48 hours til kickoff!