3 (More) Things To Know About the New York Giants
Just three weeks ago, Greg Joseph hit his career-high 61 yards to put the Minnesota Vikings over the New York Giants in their Week 16 matchup. Although it’s been a while since their last meeting, the playoffs are a different animal and a lot changes when the teams enter the postseason.
Minnesota, in particular, will approach the game differently. The Vikings gave their players some rest last week to prepare for the playoffs, but they are less healthy than when they faced the Giants on Dec. 24. Most importantly, they will miss Austin Schlottmann and Brian O’Neill.
How can this game change from the first time they met? Let’s look at three factors that will decide the game on New York’s side of the ball.
While the Vikings are beaten, the Giants will likely have several players back from injury this week. New York’s biggest return may be cornerback Adoree’ Jackson, who has missed most of the season with a sprained MCL. Jackson has been limited in practice in recent weeks and would be a huge addition to a secondary that gave up 133 yards and a touchdown to Justin Jefferson. If Jackson returns, Jefferson may struggle to get open as often as he was in their first matchup.
Edge rusher Azeez Ojulari could also return. He left the game against the Vikings early with an ankle injury. Ojulari has only played in six games this season, but he has recorded at least half a sack in his last five appearances. He and rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux, the No. 1 pick. 5 overall in this year’s draft, are a threat to disrupt the backup offensive linemen the Vikings will field.
The Giants still have the highest blitz rate of any team at 39.7%, 5.3% higher than the no. 2, Arizona Cardinals. The Giants got four sacks on Kirk Cousins last game, and the struggle should be even greater without Minnesota’s starting left tackle. There is a chance Garrett Bradbury returns to center this week. But if you don’t, Chris Reed will be responsible for it again. If Reed is also responsible for calling defenses, as most centers are, that could spell more trouble for the O-line. Reed has struggled with early counts in Green Bay.
The Giants open themselves up to danger with their frequent punts, as Cousins showed he can still deliver while they bully him in the pocket. Cousins completed 34 passes for 299 yards and three touchdowns, finding gaps left by speedy backs. TJ Hockenson was often the beneficiary of these open spaces. He had his best game in Minnesota, hauling in 13 catches for 109 yards and two scores. While the Giants won’t stray from their identity, perhaps they’ll be more cautious about letting Hockenson go free.
There are no big names among the Giants’ catchers. No Giants player has broken 800 yards receiving this season, and they signed many of their top wide receivers after the season started.
However, some players have stepped up when New York needed them most. In the last game, three players recorded 75 or more receiving yards: Richie James (90), Isaiah Hodgins (89) and Darius Slayton (79). While those aren’t inspiring stat lines, it underscores not only that many of these no-name players can be relied on at any point, but also that the Vikings’ secondary still needs to improve.
Even with the rise of Duke Shelley, the Vikings still give up a lot through the air. If they continue to give away undrafted talent, the Giants could take advantage of Minnesota’s biggest weakness, despite their lack of talent at the position.