A preview of Saturday’s Week 16 Giants-Vikings clash.
Vikings RB Dalvin Cook vs. Giants ILB Jaylon Smith, Micah McFadden & Landon Collins
Stopping the run has been a bugaboo for the Giants all season. The stat category that best fits this team should be Don’t Stop the Run. This defense is 30th in the league, giving up 150.4 yards per game and showing an inability to contain all rushing attacks. The Vikings prefer throwing and are only 28th in the NFL in rushing offense at 95.4 yards per game. Don’t be fooled by this. Cook (230-1,045; eight touchdowns) is a formidable challenge. The Giants’ inside linebacker spot is a mess, which is why Collins will get a few snaps and another natural safety, Tony Jefferson, will also be in the mix.
When the Vikings roll and the joint starts popping and the crowd starts chanting “Skol”, it’s a tough place to play for the road team. No wonder the Vikings are 7-1 at home this season. The Giants got what they needed last week, but let’s not forget, they managed to score just 13 points on offense. This will not suffice here. Forcing the turnovers of Kirk Cousins and Saquon Barkley to go wild is the combination needed to pull off the upset.
Vikings 27, Giants 17
Popgun attack: The Giants are last in the league in explosive passing plays — accomplishments of 20 yards or more — with just 21. By comparison, the Chiefs lead the NFL with 62. The Vikings are tied for 13th with 43. Are the Giants not asking Daniel Jones to look deep or are his receivers unable to unleash?
“I would say every game is different in terms of how you want to attack a defense,” offensive coordinator Mike Kafka said. “Some games you want to do that, some games you want to do something else.”
On the other hand, Jones has fewer interceptions (four) than any starting quarterback. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has 11.
Tale of Two Halves: There’s no way to tell how the Vikings will react after their Week 15 experience. They staged the biggest comeback in NFL history, trailing the Colts 33-0 at halftime and roaring to earn a 39-36 overtime triumph. Did it drain the Vikings or energize them?
“Very strange situation,” said security Julian Love. “It shows how resilient they are because Kirk Cousins was one of a few of them. It shows you can’t let them down, they have too many guns not to be on your s –t. We need to be locked up.”
Upside down: Rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux and sophomore Azeez Oljulari are a pair of 22-year-old outside linebackers and rising point runners. They deservedly received praise for their work last month. They are supported by the play of interior linemen Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams. It’s no coincidence that Lawrence had a quiet game in Week 14 against the Eagles when Williams was out with a neck injury.
“If Leo isn’t there, there are four hands on Dex all the time,” defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said. Lawrence this week was selected for his first Pro Bowl. It should be noted that the Vikings will be without their starting center, Garrett Bradberry, with a back problem.
Locked in: Saquon Barkley had longer runs and more productive outings, but the three straight fourth-quarter rushes he had last week — 12-, 15-, and 14-yard bursts — were a display of force rarely seen this Barkley’s season and the offensive line. .
“You, as they would say, get in your bag,” Barkley said. “It means you step into your zone. You start to feel good. Obviously, snatch the first and you enter the second, the third. For me, I just want to figure out how I can get four, five, six. ”
The return of Ben Bredeson to left guard made the difference. The Vikings are 18th in the league in rush defense, giving up 120.4 yards per game. The Giants are sixth in rushing offense with 146.2 yards per game.