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Vikings vs. Giants - Previewing the Game

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The Giants come to town next Monday for a prime time game at US Bank stadium. Let's look at the match-up.

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings played the Giants late last year at home, and blew them out 49-17 in prime time.  The Giants were without Odell Beckham, Jr., were eliminated from the playoffs the day before the game, and looked to have largely mailed it in.  Eli Manning had 3 INTs, one a pick 6 by Harrison Smith, Jerick McKinnon a 68 TD run, and Kyle Rudolph a 28-yard TD reception from Teddy Bridgewater.  The game was never close.  Here are the highlights from that game:

The danger in this home game, especially after a big win at Carolina, is taking it for granted as a win.  The Giants are not an elite team, but they'll beat you if you let them.  They have that knack for sensing when a better team is coasting for a win, and putting on their best game.  They won a couple Super Bowls that way.   They are also a better team than the one the Vikings blew out last December.

First of all, the Giants have everything to play for, whereas last December they had nothing to play for.  Second, they now have Odell Beckham Jr., whereas last December they did not.  Third, the Giants went big on defense in free agency, spending $200 million in contacts to sign CB Janoris Jenkins, DE Oliver Vernon, DT Damon Harrison and LB Keenan Robinson to shore up their ailing defense, along with re-signing Jason Pierre-Paul and former Viking Jasper Brinkley.

Having said that, it looks like the Giants could be thin at CB, after sustaining some injuries in their loss to the Redskins on Sunday.  First round draft pick Eli Apple went out with a hamstring injury and didn't return, while Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie also suffered a groin injury.  They had been tag-teaming at one CB spot, with Jenkins handling the other.   They have a rookie safety that is also out.

Offensively, the Giants have a pretty good offensive line- although center is a weak spot- and a solid receiver corps in Beckham, Cruz and Sterling Shepard.   TE is not so solid.

The Giants have also had injury issues at RB and problems fumbling, and then there is Eli Manning, who has never been a stranger to the INT.

With that, let's look at the match-ups.

Giants Offense vs. Vikings Defense

The key match-up here will be the Giants receivers vs. the Vikings secondary.  If the Vikings secondary, which now includes Xavier Rhodes, can keep the Giants receivers at bay, as they did with Green Bay and Carolina, it could be a long night for Eli Manning.

The Giants running game is average, or a little below, with a 3.9 yard/carry average, but suffered another injury set-back as Shane Vereen, who replaced the injured Rashad Jennings, was placed on IR yesterday.  Jennings has a thumb injury, and it's not clear if he'll be able to play Monday night.  If Jennings can't go, the Giants will likely go with a committee that includes Orleans Darkwa, a UFDA in 2014 that the Giants signed off the Miami practice squad.  He's 6'0"  209 lbs, has a total of 56 carries in his NFL career for 228 yards and a 4.1 yard average; Bobby Rainey, another UFDA from 2012, who's last action was with Tampa Bay last year- 5 carries and 3 receptions for the season.  The Giants have ran the ball 40% of the time so far this year, and I'm not expecting much on the ground from the Giants in any case.

The Giants have a pair of mediocre TEs splitting duty- Larry Donnell and Will Tye - neither of which have done much after three games.

The Vikings defense leads the league in lowest yards per play allowed at 4.4, sack percentage at 11.7%,  and is 2nd in takeaways with 9.   What this says generally is that the Vikings defense does not allow a lot of big plays (lowest yards/play allowed), makes offenses work for what they get, and can generate big plays of their own (sacks and turnovers).

The Giants' offense is 4th in the league in giveaways, with 7, but are 6th best in yards per play at 6.26.   Of course this was achieved against the #24, #30 and #31 ranked defenses in that category, so keep that in mind.  They are middle-of-the-pack in sacks allowed with 6, despite their first three opponents averaging less than one sack per game.

All of these stats suggest that the Vikings, if they can avoid a let-down or flat performance, should be able to contain the Giant offense at least as well as they did Carolina's, and should be in position for another 3 takeaways and 4 sacks or so.  But if the Vikings secondary can prevent big plays from the Giants' receivers, and they have the personnel to do it, then it's difficult to see the Giants having much success on offense.

Vikings Offense vs. Giants Defense

Sam Bradford played the Giants twice last year with the Eagles, and won both contests, although he had 3 INTs during the first contest (2 of which seemed to be miscues on the receiver, Riley Cooper, who on one pass stopped his go route, and the other didn't look for the ball).  In any case, Bradford averaged 71% completions for 300 yards and an 84.8 passer rating over the two games.

The Giants have suffered some injuries to their secondary so far this year.  Safety Darian Thompson was lost prior to last week's game at the Giants, and it showed as the Giants allowed more big plays down the field in his absence.  He will not play against the Vikings.  Then on Sunday, both CBs Eli Apple and Dominquie Rodgers-Cromartie were injured.  Apple with a hamstring injury early on, and Cromartie in the 3rd quarter with a groin injury.  Both are likely questionable Monday night.   The Giants have Janoris Jenkins and Leon Hall at CB as well, and they have been solid so far in coverage, but less so against the run.

The Giants defensive line has been solid against the run, allowing only 77 yards a game- 5th best- but only 4 sacks in three games.  They gave up nearly 300 yards passing last week to Kirk Cousins (21/35, 296 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs) and 29 points, despite holding them to 0/4 in the red zone.  If the Vikings offensive line can perform similarly to what they've done the past 3 games- not great by any means- I'd expect Bradford and the Vikings receivers to have similar production and scoring as the Redskins, which should be plenty.

Summary

I'd give the Vikings the advantage at every level on defense and at RB and coaching, with them basically even at receiver and QB on offense, and the advantage to the Giants offensive line.

Overall, this game is perhaps more about keeping the pedal to the metal for this Vikings team and not have a let-down game, rather than facing a daunting opponent in the Giants.

It would be nice to see improvement along the offensive line and running game, and getting back to some more deep passing on offense.  Defensively, really just continue to stifle opposing offenses like they did last week, and take advantage of the eventual mistakes they tend to make under those conditions.

But the key to victory this week is probably more about practicing well, starting strong and not letting up, rather than winning particular stats.   The Vikings secondary vs. the Giants receivers is probably the most important match-up for the Vikings to win, but I have no trouble seeing them do so if they play as they have so far this season.