The New York Giants will look to win their third game in a row as they take on the Minnesota Vikings (2-2) Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ—If you told someone, after the New York Giants began the season 0-2, that by Oct. 6 they would have a chance to have a record above .500, many people would’ve doubted you.
Head coach Pat Shurmur has familiarity with the Vikings, having been their tight ends coach and offensive coordinator from 2016-2017.
Shurmur’s current team heads into Sunday’s matchup sporting a banged-up roster, however.
Saquon Barkley will miss his second consecutive game due to a high ankle sprain, and inside linebackers Alec Ogletree (hamstring) and Tae Davis (concussion) have also been ruled out. Outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter is questionable with a neck injury.
The Giants have a tall task in front of them if they’re going to defeat one of the most complete teams in the conference.
Here’s what they’ll need to do to snag the victory on Sunday.
1. Slow down Dalvin Cook
It would be too much to expect the Giants to stop the league’s second-leading rusher Dalvin Cook. This is due to the fact that they’re without their top-three inside linebackers. But, they at least need to slow him down and prevent him from taking over the game.
Defensive coordinator James Bettcher has a tough task on his hands when it comes to finding a way to slow him down. Whether it’s loaded up on the box or having more three-safety formations on the field with Michael Thomas, it’s imperative that the Giants contain Cook.
If Cook is averaging around 5.0 yards-per-carry and the Vikings offense is controlling the time-of-possession, it’ll be a long day for Big Blue.
2. Ball security
One of the areas the Giants need to improve on is their ability to hold onto the football. Through the first four games of the season, New York has turned the ball over 10 times.
Last week against the Redskins, they turned it over four times. The Redskins are dysfunctional enough team where you can slightly get away with it. The Vikings won’t be like that. If the Giants continue their turnover woes this Sunday, their current winning streak will come to an end.
3. Take chances throwing the ball downfield
The Vikings have one of the stingiest defenses in the league, surrendering just 312 yards-per-game and giving up only 15.8 points-per-game. You’d figure the Giants will have a tough time sustaining long drives against the Vikings defense, and that it would be even more difficult without Barkley. This is why the Giants need to take shots down the field to get large chunks of yardage.
Minnesota has one of the best cornerbacks in the league in Xavier Rhodes. But with Tate finally on the field to go along with Sterling Shepard, Cody Latimer and tight end Evan Engram, the Giants have to like their chances of making plays downfield.
4. Don’t allow Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen to get free releases off the line of scrimmage.
Despite the fact that the Vikings are a run-orient offense, they have one of the best receiving duos in the league in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen.
Last season, Diggs and Thielen both had over 100 receptions and 1,000 yards receiving. But with a new offensive philosophy this season, they have a combined 26 receptions on the year.
They both voiced their displeasure in the offensive playing-calling. Therefore, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer may try to appease his top-two receivers by getting them involved early and often.
NFC Defensive Player of the Week Janoris Jenkins along with rookie DeAndre Baker and the rest of the corners need to press Diggs and Thielen at the line. This will slow them down and help prevent them from making plays downfield.
5. Keep Daniel Jones upright
Jones will compete against by far the toughest defense he’s faced in his young career. That’s why it’s imperative that the Giants offensive line continues to play well and keep Jones upright.
The Vikings have 11 sacks on the season. Last week they knocked Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky out of the game with a shoulder injury. The line didn’t give up a sack last week against the Redskins and if they can repeat that performance on Sunday, then the Giants can pull off the upset.
The Giants have made strides during their two-game winning streak and you have to like the direction the team is going in. But this week they’re facing a step up in class with the Vikings, an organization looking to avoid their third loss on the season. It should be close throughout, but the Vikings will come away with the win. Vikings 24, Giants 17.