Monday, October 21, 2013
W2W4: Giants vs. Vikings
By Dan Graziano ESPN.com
As they continue to look for their first win of this miserable season, the 0-6 New York Giants will host the 1-4 Minnesota Vikings in a "Monday Night Football" matchup at 8:30 pm ET on ESPN. I will of course be there, as will Vikings reporter Ben Goessling and many others, to chronicle all that needs chronicling from this game. But as you look beyond your workday and count the hours until kickoff, here are a couple of things that'll be worth watching once toe meets leather in East Rutherford, N.J.
Can the Giants knock over Josh Freeman? This is, for me, the most glaring thing about the way the Giants play now. As a team they have eight sacks in their last 11 games. That's not a trend anymore; it's almost an ethos. The Giants in their current form simply are not the type of team that effectively puts pressure on an opposing quarterback. It is very easy for a quarterback to feel comfortable when playing against them, and as a result their defense is unable to dictate the flow of a game or get stops when it needs them. The last time they saw Freeman, they sacked him twice and intercepted him twice in a wild 41-34 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 2 of last season. This is Freeman's first game as a Viking, after the Bucs cut him earlier this year. So Minnesota likely will try to run the ball as much as possible with Adrian Peterson. But when they do throw, the Giants need to find ways to make Freeman move his feet, and maybe once or twice bring him to the ground.
What to do about Peterson: The reigning NFL MVP, Peterson is coming off a tough game and has been dealing with an off-field tragedy following the death of his 2-year-old son. He will play, though, and he'll have to be a focal point for the Giants' defense. The Giants have actually done a decent job limiting between-the-tackles running this year thanks to their strength at the defensive tackle position. But while they're allowing opponents only 3.9 yards per carry (15th in the league), they're giving up more rush yards per game (123.3) than all but five teams in the league. They've struggled to contain outside runners, and surely Peterson and the Vikings have seen them on tape. What gives the Giants hope that this can improve is the encouraging debut performance of middle linebacker Jon Beason 11 days ago in Chicago. If he's going to be as quick and athletic as he looked in that game, that will go a long way toward shoring up that problem. No tougher test than this one.
Obviously, the interceptions: Giants quarterback Eli Manning leads the league with 15 interceptions, and the team's league-high 23 turnovers are a huge reason they're 0-6. But the Vikings offer some hope. They only have seven interceptions this season, and two of those belong to safety Harrison Smith, who's on injured reserve and not playing Monday night. If they can keep Manning upright, this could be a game in which he's not punished as badly for mistakes as he has been in the first six.
Another new runner? It sounds as though Brandon Jacobs, who rushed for 106 yards in the Chicago game, will either miss this game or be limited due to his hamstring injury. That likely means carries for newly signed veteran Peyton Hillis and/or rookie Michael Cox, neither of whom has a single carry as a Giant. As vulnerable as the Minnesota secondary is, the Giants will still look to run and establish an offensive balance that relieves some of the pressure on Manning. The extent to which they have success with this early could determine whether they're playing from ahead or behind in the second half.