Saturday, December 26, 2015

Vikings vs. Giants Preview

It will be a frigid evening at TCF Bank Stadium as the Vikings (9-5) square off with the New York Giants (6-8) on Sunday Night Football. Daniel House previews the game and provides his keys to victory as the Vikings continue their quest towards the playoffs. 

Updated: December 26th, 2015 9:35am

By: Daniel House

It will be a frigid evening at TCF Bank Stadium as the Vikings (9-5) square off with the New York Giants (6-8) on Sunday Night Football. Minnesota is trying to continue the momentum they gained after a huge win over the Bears last week. A win over the Giants would keep the Vikings' division title hopes alive. Not to mention, it would set up a battle for the NFC North title in Green Bay next week. The G-Men are battling to stay in the playoff hunt in a disappointing NFC East division. If the Redskins win Saturday night, the Giants will be eliminated from playoff contention before they take the field against the Vikings. New York has dealt with a tumultuous week as star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was suspended for unnecessary roughness penalties in last week's game against Carolina. That definitely will change the Giants game plan as he was one of their main weapons through the air. However, they simply cannot replace someone like that. The New York running game has been ineffective too, so pounding the ball on the ground won't be a solution either. Minnesota needs to pressure Eli Manning into mistakes, while exploiting the Giants defenses' weakness in pass coverage. Finally, they'll need to play their best football and must handle the pressures of playing in primetime too.

Continuing to move it through the air
Teddy Bridgewater has put together back-to-back weeks of solid performances. He notched five total touchdowns last week, including four through the air. Norv Turner has been calling more bootlegs and quick hit passes for Bridgewater's playing style. Additionally, that's improved the amount of time the offensive line has to hold their blocks. The Vikings should continue their passing success against a Giants defense that has allows the most total passing yards per game (317.1). Not to mention, the Giants pass rush hasn't been producing either. They have notched the second-fewest total sacks (19). Finally, their run defense is middle of the road, surrendering 114 yards per game. The Vikings need to exploit their weakness in the passing game, while blending in the running game in the cold weather.

Pressuring Manning into mistakes
Eli Manning is a different quarterback when he has time to throw. The Giants offensive line has allowed the third-fewest sacks to opposing defensive lines. Dialing up some exotic blitzes and bringing additional pressure will be necessary if they want to force Manning into mistakes. Manning has thrown the sixth-most interceptions in the league, including five over his last four matchups. The Vikings defense has flourished when they can get after the quarterback. They sacked Jay Cutler five times last week and the Bears' offense failed to move the ball well. The same defensive approach should be taken to keep the Giants offense on their toes. If they can get into a rhythm through the air, the Vikings will have a tough time stopping them.

Life without Beckham Jr. 
In case you didn't know, Odell Beckham Jr. is suspended for his in-game antics last week against the Panthers. Beckham Jr. is one of the top wide receivers in the league and plays an integral role in their system. Hakeem Nicks and Rueben Randle will be asked to handle the duties for a week. Will Tye is another weapon worth keeping an eye on.  He has touchdowns in two consecutive contests and has been targeted 13 times over that stretch. Not to mention, he’s cracked 50+ yards of receiving in three of his last five matchups. It might be worth Mike Zimmer stopping by Dick's Sporting Goods to pick up a Louisville Slugger before the game to spook the Giants. Anyways, during OBJ’s absence, Tye will pick up a few additional receptions. Nobody jumps off the paper when it comes to Giants weapons, but they won't change their game plan even with Odell Beckham Jr. out.

Starters might return
Starters Harrison Smith, Anthony Barr, and Linval Joseph are all listed as probable. They've each missed the last three games and will likely return for this contest to prepare for a potential NFC North division title game in week 17. Mike Zimmer says he won't change his approach if other teams lose before the Vikings play. He doesn't just want a playoff berth, but the team has a goal of winning the division. Adrian Peterson sprained his ankle last week, but practiced fully. He won't miss this game as the Vikings continue their quest to the playoffs. This team has played well without a few defensive starters. However, their return will only help this team moving forward into the playoffs.

Handling the elements and winning in primetime
The temperature for this Sunday night game will be in the low teens and the Vikings need to embrace this. Their offense can't change because of the cold weather. Additionally, the Vikings have been very unsuccessful in primetime contests. They might play several more nationally televised games in the next couple weeks and need to learn how to win these games. This team has changed their culture and winning this game would be another confidence boost. In addition, it would set up a huge game for the NFC North title in Green Bay next week. These two games will be critical towards deciding whether the Vikings have a home or road playoff game in the wild card round.

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