The New York Giants put forth arguably their best game of the season last Thursday night against the Chicago Bears, but of course they were unable to close out the win. They'll get another shot to get off the snide at 0-6 against another NFC North foe, the Minnesota Vikings, again in prime time on Monday Night Football.
The Vikings will trot out former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman in place of former first-rounder Christian Ponder and journeyman Matt Cassel. Freeman is a former first-round pick himself and is looking to put his history with the Bucs in the rear-view mirror and start fresh in the Twin Cities. His first shot comes against a struggling Giants defense which has been unable to stop, well, a nosebleed so far.
Here's what we're watching for on Monday:
[Related: Ed's version of 'Five Things to Watch']
Adrian Peterson vs. Giants linebackers
It's no secret that AP is a beast and the key to the Vikings' offense. And with Freeman lined up behind center, it gives the Vikings an actual threat to pass the ball, ensuring defenders cannot crowd the box against Peterson.
The Giants' 26th-ranked run defense has allowed 123 yards per game, but have limited Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy and Matt Forte to under 75 yards in each of the last three games. Peterson is averaging close to 97 yards per game, and if the Giants can make a conscious effort to contain him on the ground, they'll force Freeman's hand.
Josh Freeman vs. Giants secondary
Speaking of Freeman, no one knows what to do expect of him in purple just yet. There's one quarterback who plays like a first-rounder and once looked to be the franchise centerpiece in Tampa. There's also the one we saw earlier this season, struggling to complete half of his passes and unable to move the Bucs offense.
Only Cam Newton failed to throw for more than 250 yards against the depleted Giants secondary, but it's a unit that may return Jayron Hosley and Corey Webster, both of whom had limited practices on Thursday.
Eli Manning vs. Vikings secondary
Manning must be licking his chops to see the Minnesota secondary which has been exploited week in and week out and certainly missed veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield, who left via free agency in the offseason. The unit took another hit this week, as the team placed safety Harrison Smith on short-term IR.
Manning leads the league in interceptions (15), but if there was ever a more perfect opportunity for a bounce-back game -- cough -- this is it.
Jared Allen vs. Will Beatty
The Giants' left tackle has failed to live up to the big-money contract he was dealt during the offseason. Beatty has surrendered four sacks and 23 pressures so far this season, and now has the challenge of blocking Jaren Allen, Minnesota's All-Pro defensive end who has registered double-digit sack totals in each of the past six seasons.
Brian Robison, who was recently signed to an extension, will also have an advantage over rookie Justin Pugh. And if Manning is under fire again, well, we all know how that story goes.
Giants running backs vs. Vikings defensive front
The good news about Beatty is that despite his pass-blocking struggles, he has excelled in run blocking. According to Pro Football Focus, he, Pugh, Bear Pascoe and Brandon Myers created huge running lanes for Brandon Jacobs against the Bears, resulting in 106 yards and two rushing touchdowns for the old vet.
Jacobs will be joined by rookie Michael Cox and newly signed Peyton Hillis in the backfield this week against a very average Minnesota run defense. No one expects Jacobs to replicate his 100-yard game again, but a devoted effort to run the ball and strike balance is always desired.
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