The New York Giants (0-6) face the Minnesota Vikings (1-4) in a Monday Night Football match-up that looked much better, and more important, when the schedule was released than it actually turns out to be. Regardless, let's break it down and see what the Giants might be able to do to earn their long overdue first victory of the 2013 season.
When The Giants Have The Ball
It's all about those turnovers for the error-prone Giants' offense. Head coach Tom Coughlin says "it strikes right at my gut" when the Giants turn the ball over. That means his team has punched the coach in the stomach a league-worst 23 times this season. The Giants are a league-worst -16 in takeaway/giveaway ratio. Many of those turnovers have come on mis-reads or mis-communications between quarterback Eli Manning (15 INTs) and his receivers. In five starts against the Vikings, Manning has three touchdown passes and 11 interceptions, a number that does not bode well for Monday night.
To give Manning time to make good reads, avoid turnovers and create the big plays the Giants depend on they will have to give him time to throw, which means handling five-time Pro Bowl and four-time All-Pro defensive end Jared Allen. Allen, who has recorded double-digit sacks in each of the past six seasons, has 3.5 so far this season. The primary job of dealing with him falls to left tackle Will Beatty, who has struggled so far in 2013. Beatty has surrendered four sacks and 23 pressures. The Giants' other tackle, rookie Justin Pugh, has surrendered two sacks and his 27 pressures allowed is second-worst among tackles this season.
If they can give Manning an opportunity, there could be big plays to be made against the Vikings' secondary. Minnesota ranks 29th vs. the pass (308.0 yards per game), 31st in yards allowed per game (418.0) and 30th in points allowed (31.6 per game). The Giants are only 30th in the league in scoring, averaging 17.2 points per game.
The Giants may have to rely heavily on Manning's arm vs. the Vikings, even though they would love to establish some type of running game. They will be utilizing a makeshift backfield that may lean heavily on rookie seventh-round pick Michael Cox, who has never had an NFL carry. Brandon Jacobs, who carried 22 times for 106 yards last week vs. the Chicago Bears, has a hamstring injury and his availability is uncertain. The third back, Peyton Hillis, just signed with the Giants on Wednesday.
Minnesota has a pair of quality linebackers who lead the team in tackles. E.J. Henderson has 43 tackles and two sacks, while Chad Greenway has 40 tackles and one sack.
When The Vikings Have The Ball
It really doesn't matter who is playing quarterback for the Vikings, and this Monday that will be Josh Freeman. Running back Adrian Peterson, the best in the business, is the Vikings' offense. Peterson has 478 yards rushing in five games, a pace that would give him more than 1,500 yard rushing for the season. For the Giants the cary part is that's a far cry from the 2,097 yards he had last season. Peterson has had just two 100-yard games so far this season. The Giants had better hope No. 28 does not make them pay on Monday.
The Giants are 26th in the league vs. the run, surrendering 123.3 yards per game. They are, however, giving up only 3.9 yards per carry. Can they be that successful against Peterson? Can middle linebacker Jon Beason, who debuted with 12 tackles last week, continue to make a difference for the Giants?
The Giants will also hope to put pressure on Freeman, who will likely be working with a watered-down version of the Minnesota offense in his first game? The Giants have a league-worst five sacks. Minnesota quarterbacks have been sacked 14 times in five games. The Vikings' leading receivers are Jerome Simpson (23 catches), Kyle Rudolph (21 catches) and Greg Jennings (20 catches). The Vikings are 10th in the league, averaging 25.0 points per game.
Rookie Cordarrelle Patterson has proven to be a dangerous kickoff return man for the Vikings, averaging 33.8 yards on 12 returns, including a 10-5-yard touchdown. Minnesota's Marcus sherels averages only 2 yards per punt return, however.
Who returns kickoffs for the Giants might bear watching. With David Wilson out, rookie Michael Cox might have to take a full load at running back. That would likely leave return duties to Jerrel Jernigan. Jernigan has averaged 28.3 yards on four returns thus far this season.