Kirk Cousins
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

The New York Giants’ best defensive game plan vs. the Minnesota Vikings is forcing Kirk Cousins to beat them over the top.

The New York Giants have won two-straight games behind the arm of quarterback Daniel Jones. The defense has also improved after the first two weeks, giving up only six points in the last six quarters they’ve played.

However, the defense faces a huge challenge this week against the Minnesota Vikings. It’s a challenge that got more difficult on Friday with the announcement that starting inside linebackers Tae Davis and Alec Ogletree will not be able to play.

Dalvin Cook has shown himself to be one of the best running backs in the game and the Vikings are one of the most run-heavy teams in the league. The Giants can’t rely on Nate Stupar and David Mayo to lock Cook down. They’re going to need help, which is going to require the defense to challenge Kirk Cousins to beat them.

That means that Jabrill Peppers is going to need to spend most of the game playing in the box. It means Lorenzo Carter (or Oshane Ximenes) and Markus Golden are going to need to dial up blitzes to seal the edge rather than get to the quarterback. And it’s going to mean that Janoris Jenkins and DeAndre Baker are going to need to play on islands against Adam Thielen and the Vikings receiving group.

Is any of this ideal? Of course not. You don’t want to give up big plays in the passing game and you absolutely do not want to put a weak secondary in cover zero against two great wide receivers. But when a team can only take away one aspect of their opponent’s game, they need to focus on the aspect that will disrupt their opponents the most.

New York Giants

The Vikings run the ball 52.65 percent of the time, the second-highest rate in the NFL. Their 155.3 running yards per game rank third in the NFL, while their 169 passing yards per game are 31st, ahead of only a New York Jets team down to their third-string quarterback.

Cousins has been awful this season, putting up a 25.5 QBR, the lowest total of his career, despite making one of the highest salaries amongst quarterbacks. The situation in Minnesota is teetering on the edge, with both Thielen and Stefon Diggs voicing frustration with the offense.

Thielen spoke about the need for the Vikings to figure out how to attack downfield after their week four loss, and Diggs skipped a practice this week and there is speculation that he doesn’t want to be in Minnesota anymore.

In fact, it’s not even a guarantee that Diggs suits up this week, according to Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer provided a curt “I don’t know, we’ll see” when asked if Diggs would play on Sunday.

Diggs sitting would be a huge boost for the Giants but even if he is in the lineup, the Vikings pass attack has struggled. The Giants best hope at shutting down the Vikings offense is to go all-in on stopping the running game, and forcing a struggling pass attack to find their footing.

It might cost them the game, but when a team is depleted they need to take chances. For the Giants, that means risking getting torched in the passing game.

They must force Kirk Cousins to beat them over the top.

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