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Giants - Minnesota
Game 18 preview
Sunday Jan 15, 4:30 PM - Giants at Minnesota

Giants (9-7-1) Minnesota (13-4)
Last week the Minnesota Vikings finished the first half holding a 16-6 lead over the Chicago Bears. That gave them some room to relax on their way to the playoffs, and they left Chicago with a 29-13 win.
The Giants were also looking ahead to the playoffs when they took on the Eagles in Philadelphia. The Eagles were out to secure the No 1 seed, and accomplished that with a 22-16 win over the Giants.

Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings have never won a Super Bowl. The Vikings had appeared in four Super Bowls in 1970, 1974, 1975, and 1977, but lost each time. Their new head coach, Kevin O'Connell has them headed in the right direction. Kevin O'Connell replaced Mike Zimmer, who held the position from 2014-2021, guided the team to three playoffs, twice getting in after winning the division, and the last time in 2019 as a wild card team.
In 2020 the Vikings finished at 79, and it was Zimmer's first losing season. In 2021 their record was 8-9 .
After two losing seasons, the Vikings moved on from their long time head coach. The last time the Vikings won the NFC North Division title was 2017, and they have achieved that goal with O'Connell and are on their way to the playoffs as the No 3 seed.

Minnesota Vikings Offense
Kirk Cousins led the NFL in both game winning drives and comebacks with eight. He can certainly deliver the goods, and showed that the last time he faced off with the Giants, completing over 70 percent of his passes for 299 yards and 3 touchdowns. Cousins has taken 46 sacks, the most sacks of his career this season, and he was sacked 7 times in two of his last 8 games. The weakness on this offense is not the quarterback or the receivers or running backs. The offensive line played better than they had last year, but have had a tough go of it in recent weeks, especially at the center and right tackle spots.
Starting center Garrett Bradbury was unavailable for the last five games of the season, dealing with a back injury. It looks like he will be playing on Sunday. Right tackle Brian O'Neill suffered a partially torn Achilles in the Vikings next to last game, and backup center Austin Schlottmann suffered a broken leg. Last time the teams met up the Giants blitzed over 50 percent of the time from all directions, and that will likely be the same plan. Bradbury will have to shake off the rust, and Oli Udoh, who started 16 games last season, has stepped in for O'Neill.

Minnesota Vikings Defense
This defense ranks next to last in the NFL in passing yards and total yards given up per game. Those are slightly worse numbers than last year, but they have moved up a bit with their rushing defense since that time. They are one of the better teams at keeping opponents from getting to the red zone, but rank 21st at keeping them from scoring touchdowns. They are a good third down defense, and demonstrated that the last time they played the Giants.
In that game they also caused two turnovers and sacked Daniel Jones 3 times, as the Giants had to deal with edge rushers Za'Darius Smith and Danielle Hunter, who also forced a fumble that the Giants recovered.
Right tackle Evan Neal did not play his best, and even left tackle Andrew Thomas had troubles.
Saquon Barkley had just 14 carries, and Jones did get the ball to him in the air, but you would expect to see the Giants put more focus on the running game, at least at the start to keep the Vikings defense at bay.

Giants Offense
The Vikings defense gives up an average 28 points a game. If the Giants had only done that last time out against this team, they would have won that game. The numbers weren't bad, but turnovers killed them, Daniel Jones threw 42 passes, and his 30 completions were the most he's had in any one game this season. Jones averaged 8 yards a completion for a total 334 yards, including 1 touchdown. Unfortunately, Jones also threw one interception, his first in five games. That was costly, coming when the Giants were on a first down in field goal range, and he had just completed five straight passes to get them there.
Saquon Barkley ran for 84 yards on 14 carries, and had 1 touchdown, and he was targeted by Jones more than in any other game. Barkley caught 8 of his 10 targets for 49 yards, for a 6.1 average per catch. Richie James had the highest total yards, catching 8 out of 11 for 90 yards, but his drop just past midway in the fourth quarter, killed another Giants drive.
With their No. 6 playoff spot secured, the Giants had a chance
to rest their key players last week, and that will certainly help them going into this game. Jones and Barkley have carried a heavy workload, as well as some offensive linemen who watched from the sidelines, and backups had a shot at improving their gameplay.

Giants Defense
Last week the Chicago Bears did not sack Kick Cousins or backup quarterback Nick Mullens, who replaced him for the second half of that last game. The Vikings coasted to a 29-13 win, and got to ease up on some player snaps. This week they face a defense that blitzes more than any team in the NFL, and they recently took a big hit to their already shaky offensive line. The Giants went after Cousins in their first game and sacked him 4 times, but he was able to complete passes to wide receiver Justin Jefferson and tight end T.J. Hockenson when he needed it the most.
Safety Xavier McKinney and cornerback Adoree' Jackson did not play in that game, and you have to think that Hockenson wouldn't have ended up with a career high 13 catches for 109 yards and 2 touchdowns, if they were available to play. The same goes for Jefferson, who caught 12 passes for 103 yards and 1 touchdown. Despite the upfront pressure, Cousins kept looking their way, and the two missed on only 7 of Cousins 32 passes that went their way. Adoree hasn't played in a few weeks dealing with a knee injury, and the Giants will be hoping he can bring it all.

Overall
The players on both teams know that unlike the 17 games they've played so far, one team will see their season come to an end. The winner will be moving on to a Divisional Playoff game, and the loser will be watching the team that just beat them, maybe advance from there. The Giants and Vikings played each other three weeks ago, and the game came down to the wire. It was no surprise, as the Vikings have won an NFL record 11 one-score games, and the Giants have had 8 and 1 tie.
In an interesting twist, these playoff teams both have scored less points than they've given up, the Vikings by 3, and the Giants by 6. Maybe another close game is at hand. On that note, the Giants are on an upswing as far as health issues go, and the Vikings have been heading in the opposite direction. That could be the difference in this game.

NFC East Playoff Games
Sunday at 4:30pm Giants (9-7-1) at Vikings (13-4)
Monday at 8:15pm Cowboys (12-5) at Buccaneers (8-9)
The Cowboys are the only NFC East team favored to win in these games.

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