The New York Giants are off to Minnesota once again. For the second time in the last 6 games (dating back to last season), the Vikings will host Big Blue in a primetime matchup. The Giants (2-1) are coming off of a stunning loss to the division rival Washington Redskins, while the Vikings (3-0) are flying high after shocking the Carolina Panthers on the road by a 22-10 score.
The game will kick off around 8:30 and can be seen on ESPN as this week’s Monday Night Football matchup.
New York Giants: Offense
Quick: outside of the NFC East, which team has Eli Manning played against the most in his NFL career? It is in fact the Minnesota Vikings, and they seem to be one of few teams that have Manning’s number. Manning is only 2-5 in his career against the Vikings and has thrown 14 interceptions against only 5 touchdowns.
The Giants will need Manning to break his curse against the Vikings because the rest of the Giant offense is in rough shape for Monday Night. Wideouts Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, and Victor Cruz can only score touchdowns if Manning can stay on his feet, which is where the offensive line comes in. Facing a stellar Vikings defensive front, the O-Line will need to rally together to give Manning time.
With leading rusher and go-to check-down option Shane Vereen out for at least the next 8 weeks with a triceps injury and Rashad Jennings limited with a thumb injury, the running game could suffer under the lights. A good performance from the tight ends in both the pass and run game could be the X-Factor for Big Blue.
Minnesota Vikings: Offense
Coming into the 2016 season, the Vikings’ offense was pretty much set in stone: a lot of handoffs to Adrian Peterson, a lot of read-options from Teddy Bridgewater, and a lot of targets for Stefon Diggs. So far, only the latter has actually transpired for Minnesota, as Peterson and Bridgewater have been lost for the season due to knee injuries. Stout left tackle Matt Kalil is also on IR.
But the Vikings didn’t just sit on their hands after the devastating injuries. They traded for QB Sam Bradford, promoted RB Jerick McKinnon, and made the best of what they had left. Tight end Kyle Rudolph has been a red-zone threat for the Vikings, and pesky Adam Thielen has been a reliable third-down target. McKinnon is also a threat to catch passes out of the backfield.
The weak link for the Vikings for years was the offensive line, but that has been remedied for 2016. Bradford gets a lot of time in the pocket, which makes his throws even more crisp.
New York Giants: Defense
The Giants defense has been a bright spot so far, but they did suffer a bit of a hiccup against the Redskins. The pass rush, led by Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon, has been exceptional, as has the run stuffing tandem of Damon Harrison and Jonathan Hankins. Linebackers Jonathan Casillas, Keenan Robinson, Kelvin Sheppard, and Devon Kennard have also been reliable.
But the real question mark for the Giants lies in the secondary. The trio of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Janoris Jenkins, and Eli Apple could be broken up due to injuries, with Jenkins the only healthy starting corner the Giants have. Backups Trevin Wade and Leon Hall will need to step up against the dangerous Vikings offense.
To make matters worse, the Giants do not have a healthy backup safety either. Undrafted rookie Andrew Adams will start alongside Landon Collins, with return man Dwayne Harris the likely backup. The fact that an offensive player is the backup at safety is a very scary thought for the Giants on Monday Night.
Minnesota Vikings: Defense
After years of being a good defense, the Vikings have really stepped up this season. Stalwarts Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph, Danielle Hunter, and Brian Robison can both plug the run and rush the passer; they’ve combined for 12 sacks through 3 weeks. Linebackers Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, and Chad Greenway are sure tacklers, and the secondary, led by Pro Bowl safety Harrison Smith, is a turnover machine.
The Giants will have their hands full with the Vikings’ defense. They lead the league in sacks and interceptions, and make any quarterback uncomfortable.
New York Giants: Special Teams
The Giants’ special teams have yet to catch fire this season. Josh Brown hasn’t been himself on field goals or kickoffs, Brad Wing has yet to down a punt within the 20-yard-line, and Zak DeOssie has botched some snaps. Even Dwayne Harris has yet to break a big return.
The Giants could use a boost from their special teams units on Monday Night.
Minnesota Vikings: Special Teams
The Vikings have the talented special teams on paper that every team desires, except at kicker at least. Expensive kicker Blair Walsh has already missed 2 field goals this year, and his confidence must be waning after last year’s costly miss in the NFC Wild Card playoff game. Punter Jeff Locke has been on point so far, and return men Cordarelle Patterson and Marcus Sherels are electric threats.
The Giants could really use a win this week, but the Vikings are just too good a team. The entire game is a mismatch skewed towards the Vikings’ way, which could make for a long Monday Night for Giants fans.
31-17, Vikings (Record picking Giants games: 2-1)