Giants / Vikings Wildcard Preview – Another Comeback?
by Thomas Quaynor – NFL analyst for Wannamakeabet.com
The NFC North champion Minnesota Vikings (13-4, 3 seed) host the New York Giants (9-7-1, 6 seed) in an opening round wildcard matchup on Sunday afternoon. The Vikings are a 3-point favorite and the total is 47.5. These teams played each other in Week 16 at Minnesota, the Vikings won 27-24 after Greg Joseph nailed a 61-yard field goal as time expired.
The last time these franchises met in the playoffs was the 2000 NFC Championship game (January/2001) in New York, the Giants won 41-0. An odd statistical note on the Vikings, they finished 13-4 yet were outscored 427-424 on the year. To put it in better context, the San Francisco 49ers also finished 13-4 and outscored their opponents 450-277! The Bills finished 13-3 and outscored their opponents 455-286!
The New York Giants surprised many by going 9-7-1 and making the playoffs this year. The last time the Giants made the playoffs was 2016, that was also their last winning season (11-5). A big reason for the turnaround was the resurgence of star running back Saquan Barkley, who finished the year with 1,312 rushing yards (4th in the NFL) and 10 touchdowns.
After a terrific rookie year in 2018, Barkley dealt with a number of injuries over the past 3 seasons. Highly scrutinized quarterback Daniel Jones had a good season with 15 touchdowns to 5 interceptions and rushed for 708 yards and 7 touchdowns. Barkley and Jones basically carried a somewhat limited offense. The Giants defense wasn’t necessarily elite this year but they did play well enough to keep them close in most games, some of their standouts include defensive tackle Dexter “Sexy Dexy” Lawrence (7.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles) rookie defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux and safety Julian Love.
Thibodeaux’s strip sack-touchdown in the Giants 20-12 win at Washington in Week 15 may have propelled them to the playoffs. The Giants had been struggling coming into that game.
The Minnesota Vikings dethroned the Green Bay Packers as NFC North Champs this year, the Packers had won the division for 3 straight years. Over the past two non-playoff seasons, the Vikings were plagued by close losses, things turned around dramatically this year as 11 of their 13 wins have been by 8 points or less! This explains how they could go 13-4 and be outscored 427-424 on the year.
The Vikings explosive offense has carried them all season, leading the charge is superstar wide receiver Justin Jefferson who led the NFL with 128 catches and 1,809 yards, he also caught 8 touchdowns. His catches and yards also set the Vikings franchise records. Quarterback Kirk Cousins finished the year with 4,547 yards, 29 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. The midseason acquisition of tight end TJ Hockenson (the 8th overall pick in the 2019 draft) from the Detroit Lions also bolstered the offense.
Much like the Giants, the Vikings defense has also had a lot of problems stopping teams but kept games close and made big plays late in games that allowed the Vikings to win. Linebackers Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith (both finished with 10+ sacks), safety Harrison Smith and former all-pro cornerback Patrick Peterson are standouts on the defense.
It seems as if both of these teams only know how to play in close games, I think this game will be close but the final margin will be higher than 3, lay the points…Vikings 31, Giants 24
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