Even though everyone might be thrown off a little bit by the holiday and what not, we're still right around 48 hours away from the last ever (scheduled) Minnesota Vikings' home game at TCF Bank Stadium. Unless the Vikings win the NFC North and get themselves a game in Minneapolis on Wild Card weekend, we're not going to see another outdoor Vikings' home game for a long, long time. . .if ever. Fittingly, it's in prime time under the bright lights, as the Vikings do battle with the New York Giants. This game was flexed to Sunday night because, at the time, it looked like it might have playoff implications. . .but by the time these two teams take the field on Sunday, it might not have any at all.
Let's get this started with our weekly prediction widget from our friends at The Crowd's Line.
The big story this week, as far as the game goes, is that the Giants will come into this one without their top offensive weapon, wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. OBJ was suspended for this week's game for his conduct last Sunday when the Giants played the Carolina Panthers, and his appeal has already been heard and dismissed. He's currently third in the National Football League in receiving yardage, and his 13 receiving touchdowns are tied for the NFL lead in that category. Obviously, the Giants' passing attack takes on a completely different look without #13 on the field. Eli Manning has had a pretty fine season for the Giants thus far, but the Vikings will be able to play significantly different coverages without Beckham to worry about than they would have to otherwise.
Adding to the dilemma for the Giants' offense is that the Vikings are likely going to be getting some pretty significant returnees on the defensive side of the ball. Linval Joseph (a former Giant), Anthony Barr, and Harrison Smith all appear to be on track to return on Sunday night after they've all missed (essentially) the last three games. The Giants have had some issues along the offensive line, and without Beckham to do crazy things to help bail out the offense, it should end up being a long evening for Eli and company.
When the Vikings have the ball, Teddy Bridgewater should have a pretty big opportunity to pick up where he left off against the Bears last week. The Giants, in terms of yards allowed, have the NFL's worst pass defense (by nearly 30 yards/game) and are on track to allow more passing yards than any defense in NFL history. The 2011 Packers currently have the high (or low) water mark in that category, allowing 4,796 yards through the air. The 2015 Giants have allowed 4,318 yards passing. . .and they still have two full games to play. The return of Jason Pierre-Paul has given the Giants' pass rush a bit of a boost, but they've still accumulated only 19 sacks in 14 games. If the Vikings continue along the same offensive lines that we saw against Chicago, with the quick passes and a good mixing in of the run game, Bridgewater should be able to put up another big December start en route to what should be an NFC North title game in Week 17.
Adrian Peterson has sat out a couple of practices this week with the ankle injury he suffered against the Bears, but he says that he expects to practice on Friday and play on Sunday. The Giants' run defense
actually hasn't been that bad hasn't been great either, ranking 12th 21st in the NFL. . .but their pass defense has been so abysmal, not many people have noticed.
We know all about the woes that the Vikings have had over the past few seasons in prime time. But, in the last game in their temporary home. . .again, last scheduled game, anyway. . .this would be a pretty good time to exorcise those demons as well. After all, if they win this one, the odds are pretty good that they're going to find themselves as a part of Sunday Night Football next weekend, too.
Vikings 27, Giants 16 to push the Vikings one step closer to a possible NFC North championship and the #3 seed in the 2015 NFC playoffs. Then they can come back to TCF Bank Stadium one last time.
What are you all predicting for Sunday night, ladies and gentlemen?