Updated: October 2nd, 2016 1:35pm
Updated: October 2nd, 2016 1:35pm
By: Daniel House
The Vikings have another opportunity to showcase their new stadium in primetime as they square off with the New York Giants on Monday Night Football. After a dominating defensive performance in Carolina last week, the Vikings will be tasked with stopping a talented trio of New York Giants wide receivers. New York enters the game with a 2-1 record after falling to the Washington Redskins 29-27 last week. The Giants have a threatening offense, but they enter Minnesota with a depleted secondary. The Vikings will look to take advantage of this as they turn on the lights for another night game at U.S. Bank Stadium.
By: Daniel House
For more on how the Vikings stack up against the Giants, take a dive into my preview:
Stopping the New York Wide Receiver Trio
The Giants have an impressive trio of wide receivers who will test the Minnesota secondary in every way on Monday night. Star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is their biggest weapon. He is averaging 93.3 yards per game and can create so many yards after the catch. The coaches will need to decide how they distribute coverage responsibilities in the secondary. Beckham can make so many plays vertically up the field and must be accounted for by your defense. However, veteran Victor Cruz returned from injury and is the veteran leader of the wide receiver group. He has also notched a respectable 65 yards per game average. The weapon opposite of Odell Beckham Jr. you should be worried most about is rookie wide receiver Sterling Shepard. Shepard's targets are up and his 14.6 yards per catch average is very impressive. The Vikings secondary has yet to face three wide receivers who can do this much damage. New York is thriving off big plays and have notched the sixth-best yards per play average (6.26). Xavier Rhodes will likely shadow Odell Beckham Jr. and the likes of Terence Newman and Captain Munnerlyn will be tested when the Giants flex into 3-WR sets during the game. The Vikings defense has allowed the lowest yards per play average (4.4 yards), but they have yet to be tested against the trio of wide receivers New York has to offer.
Getting the running game going
The Vikings haven't ran the ball worth a darn to start the season. The Vikings are dead last in rushing yards per game (51.0 yards) and haven't been effective on the ground. It won't get any easier against a Giants team that has allowed just 77 yards per game (fifth-best average). Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata can create yards after contact, but they are ineffective when they don't have any rushing lanes. The Vikings offensive line has been inconsistent at gaining leverage in the running game and it has to get better if they are going to win ball games. When the offense is balanced, the team is at their best. If they can find a way to run well, it will open up more lanes to pass against an injury depleted New York Giants secondary.
Pressuring Manning into mistakes
Over the first three weeks, the Vikings have forced the opposing offense to make mistakes. The way they have pressured the quarterback has played a role in this success. The Vikings defense has accounted for 14 points, 14 sacks, five interceptions and four fumble recoveries. According to Bill Barnwell of ESPN, the Vikings have forced turnovers on 25.7% of opponents' drives this year. The statistical success this team has had on defense through the first three weeks is pretty jaw-dropping. Now, they need to find more ways to pressure Eli Manning into making mistakes. Manning has just a 2-5 all-time record against the Vikings, completing 54.1% of his passes, for just five touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. Manning won't blow you away with his mobility and the Vikings should bring plenty of pressure to keep him inside the pocket. When Manning forces the issue, he is at his worst. Mike Zimmer will dial up plenty of blitzes and stunts to confuse the Giants up front. They have allowed a middle-of-the-road amount of sacks, but their offensive line unit certainly isn't terrible. If Minnesota can get after Manning and create turnovers like they have over the first few weeks, they have the chance to dominate this ball game. The Giants have surrendered a fourth-most giveaways and the Vikings need to exploit this on Monday night.
Exploiting the injuries in the Giants' secondary
The Giants secondary is limping into U.S. Bank Stadium and the Vikings need to take advantage. Safety Darian Thompson will not play in this game and cornerbacks Eli Apple and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie left last week's game with injuries. Their status is unknown for the game, but a hamstring injury for Apple and a groin problem for Rodgers-Cromartie are sure to linger. This leaves Janoris Jenkins and Leon Hall in the secondary. New York will likely shadow Stefon Diggs with Jenkins, but they have some clear weaknesses over the top in their secondary. If quarterback Sam Bradford has time to throw, he will be able to exploit the weakened New York secondary. The Giants have allowed just four sacks in three games, but the Vikings offensive line has been bad. They need to play better and ensure Bradford has time to find his receivers up the field. This is the type of game where the Vikings will need to pass the ball well to win.
Winning on Monday Night
Mike Zimmer likes the media and the world to come against his team. This week, he has more bulletin board material. The Vikings have traditionally struggled on Monday night. They have lost seven consecutive Monday night games since 2009 and were outscored in those contests, 214-84. This is a totally different team with an improved mentality. However, closing out a Monday night win would wipe another national stereotype off the list.