The Giants are in the playoffs for the first time in six years.
After a dreadful five seasons headlined by three failed head-coaching tenures and egregious mistakes made by the Dave Gettleman front office, postseason football is back in East Rutherford. At 9-7-1, the Giants are the 6-seed in the NFC.
Their opponent in the NFC Wild Card round: the third-seeded Vikings.
These teams faced each other back on Christmas Eve, a game in which Minnesota won on a 61-yard field goal as time expired. But the Giants are healthier this time around. Safety Xavier McKinney is back after a hand injury and so is cornerback Adoree’ Jackson after a knee injury.
Numerous players are also well-rested — running back Saquon Barkley, offensive tackle Andrew Thomas, defensive linemen Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams, outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari, and safety Julian Love were inactive for the meaningless Week 18 loss to Philly.
Head coach Brian Daboll‘s squad is in better shape than usual. With that said, can the Giants take care of the Vikings and reach the Divisional Round for the first time since the Super Bowl 46 run?
Giants at Vikings
When: Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023.
Where: U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
Time: 4:30 p.m. ET.
Giants’ keys to victory
Stop Jefferson. This is first and foremost. The Giants will need to limit the impact of Minnesota’s Justin Jefferson, arguably the top wide receiver in the NFL.
In the Christmas Eve loss, the Giants let Jefferson reel in 12 receptions for 133 yards and one touchdown. His 17-yard catch-and-run in the final seconds of regulation put the Vikings in position for the game-winning 61-yard field goal.
Minnesota runs its offense through him — the Giants must limit his effectiveness if they want to win this game.
Passing game success. The Vikings ended the regular season second-worst in defending the pass. The Giants must take advantage of this development to keep up on the scoreboard. Quarterback Daniel Jones will need to lock in with his receivers, regardless of who’s out there.
DB on Hockenson. Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson torched the Giants in Week 16, catching 13 balls for 109 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Rookie linebacker Micah McFadden was the nearest defender on various occasions and was in coverage on one of Hockenson’s scores.
The Giants need to put an extra safety or slot corner — someone with better coverage skills than a run-stopping rookie linebacker — on the talented tight end.
It’s the biggest game of the young quarterback’s life.
In his fourth season, after struggling for much of his first three years in the NFL, Jones is in the playoffs for the first time. With his third different head coach and fourth different offensive coordinator (if you count Freddie Kitchens’ 2021 interim tenure).
Jones has led an offense mainly lacking talent this entire season. Can he do it in the NFL Playoffs, a level of play he’s never reached in the past?
How Jones performs against the Vikings should go a long way in determining whether the Giants advance to the next round.
The last time the Giants were in a playoff game…
Was Jan. 8, 2017.
Barack Obama was in the final days of an eight-year run as the President of the United States.
Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott were in their memorable rookie seasons with the Cowboys.
The social media app “Vine” was still in existence.
Brian Daboll was the Patriots’ tight ends coach, Mike Kafka was a graduate assistant at Northwestern, and Daniel Jones was 19.
The Vikings torched the Giants through the air during the regular-season meeting on Christmas Eve. Jefferson and Hockenson combined for 25 catches for 242 yards and three touchdowns.
But now, the Giants are healthier in the secondary. McKinney is back in the lineup and so is Jackson. Their returns are massive for New York — either defensive back should help contain the Vikings’ weapons and ultimately propel the Giants to a huge victory.
With the team as healthy as it could be and various starters well rested after sitting out Week 18, the Giants should get their revenge just as long as they keep Minnesota’s passing game in check. Giants 20, Vikings 16.
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