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Giants at Vikings: When Minnesota has the ball

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How does the Giants beleaguered defense stack up against the Vikings' offense?

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

This week the New York Giants will travel from an unseasonably warm and soggy northeast to a seasonably cold and snowy Minnesota to face the Minnesota Vikings. Thanks to the Giants Week 14 victory over the Miami Dolphins, the game has been flexed to Sunday night, when the temperature will be on its way from the daytime high of 16 to the overnight low of 3.

While the Giants' offense looks to find a Vikings defense that is dealing with injuries to key players at every level, Minnesota's anemic passing offense looks to get a boost from the Giants' porous defense.

Stats At A Glance

Rushing Yards Passing Yards Total Yards Total Points
Vikings Offense 131.6 (5th) 191.9 (31st) 323.5 (28th) 21.1 (21st)
Giants Defense 114.6 (21st) 308.4 (32nd) 423.0 (32nd) 25.6 (25th)

Defensive Line

The Giants' defensive struggles have largely begun up front all year long. While their rush defense has been good -- even dominant -- at times, their inability to mount much of a pass rush is well known. That has changed somewhat with the return of Jason Pierre-Paul and Robert Ayers. They are going against a Vikings offensive line that has allowed the seventh-most sacks in the league, giving up 39 through Week 15.

Other than a couple rushes by Cam Newton -- including one big 47-yard run -- the Giants largely contained Carolina's potent rushing attack. That run game, however, was its best running back in Jonathan Stewart. Helping to stifle that run game was second-year defensive tackle Jay Bromley, who got his first start on Sunday. He performed well in his first extended action, and the Giants will be looking for him to build on that going forward.

Linebackers

The Giants will once again be without Devon Kennard, who is still dealing with a foot injury. The Giants would obviously prefer to have their best linebacker going against an offense that features both tight end Kyle Rudolph and Adrian Peterson. Despite dealing with injuries to his shoulder and ankle, the Giants have to assume that Adrian Peterson will play, and be himself.

Those two threats are sure to stress the Giants' under-manned linebacking corps, but they will also have to deal with Jerick McKinnon, who's explosive athleticism and pass catching ability could exploit the Giants general inability to cover over the middle.

Secondary

The emergence of Cooper Taylor as a viable defender made veteran safety Brandon Meriweather expendable, and he was cut before the Giants' game against the Panthers to make room for Barry Cofield.

In a very "Giants" turn of events, Taylor went down with a concussion during the game. When Nikita Whitlock went down with a leg injury, the Giants re-signed Meriweather. So the back end of the Giants' defense will once again be manned by Landon Collins, Meriweather, and Craig Dahl.

Fortunately for the Giants, the Vikings' passing attack is almost as bad as the Giants' pass defense. Minnesota's two leading wide receivers, Stefon Diggs and Mike Wallace, combine for 83 receptions, 1,133 yards, and six touchdowns. While both are athletic, Prince Amukamara and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie should match up well against them.

Final Thoughts

The focus of the Giants' defense should be shutting down the Viking's 5th rated rushing attack. That, however, is easier said than done. Peterson just isn't a normal human being, even by NFL standards, and to assume he is anything less than a dynamo is inviting disaster. It will be doubly tough given the conditions, when hits hurt that much more, and the Giants will be without half of their offense.

However, if the defense can get that done, Minnesota's passing attack is efficient, but not terrifying on the outside. The threat, however, is that Rudolph and McKinnon could have big days against New York's linebackers.