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Giants at Vikings: How good is the Minnesota defense?

We explore that and other topics in this week’s “Five Questions”

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Carolina Panthers
Everson Griffen
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

We have spent days now breaking down Monday night’s matchup between the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings. How do the folks covering it from the other side view the game? Christopher Gates of SB Nation’s Daily Norseman gives us some clues in this week’s “Five Questions” segment.

Ed: The Vikings defense is being made out to be an impenetrable wall. How good are they and why?

Chris: At this point, I'd have to say they're right up there with the Denver Broncos the Seattle Seahawks as one of the top defenses in the NFL. They've faced two of the top offenses in the NFL, led by the last two MVPs, in the last two weeks and effectively shut them both down. People know about some of the big name players on Minnesota's defense, but the reason I think they're so good is that they have outstanding depth at every level of the defense. The Viking played their first two weeks of the season without Xavier Rhodes, their #1 corner, and have played the last two weeks without Sharrif Floyd, a starter at defensive tackle. But they just keep rolling guys out there and getting results, which I think is a testament to the job that Mike Zimmer and George Edwards have done in building the depth on the defensive side of the ball.

Ed: What are your thoughts on the play of Sam Bradford thus far?

Chris: It's sort of hard not to be impressed at this point. The Vikings put Bradford out there in the first game in their new stadium in prime time against their biggest rival a couple of weeks ago, and he put together a phenomenal performance. Giants fans have seen first-hand that it doesn't always work out for the Vikings when they throw a quarterback with limited experience in the offense out there (thanks to the Josh Freeman Experience back in 2013), but given the amount of time he's had in the offense and the defenses he's faced, it's hard to imagine that he could have done a whole lot better than he did. Sure, there have been some hiccups in there, but overall he's done a pretty great job through his first two starts.

Ed: Eli Manning never seems to play well against the Vikings. What are your thoughts on Manning?

Chris: Eli is one of the most vexing players of our generation, I think. On the one hand, there are times when he goes out there and makes some mind-numbingly bad decisions, like the interception that ended the game for the Giants last week against Washington or some of his past performances against Minnesota. On the other, it's really hard to argue with two Super Bowl rings and two Super Bowl MVP awards. The list of quarterbacks that can claim to have those on their resume is pretty short. I think when we look back on Manning's career in a few years when he hangs it up, we're going to be looking at a quarterback that, for the most part, was very good, but I'm not sure if he's going to wind up in Canton. The case for him will be an interesting one, though.

Ed: If you could take one player NOT NAMED ODELL BECKHAM off the Giants roster and put him in Minnesota's starting lineup who would it be? Why?

Chris: If Beckham is off the table, the guy I'd probably take from the Giants would be left tackle Ereck Flowers. The Vikings' weakest link on the roster right now, as it's been for the past couple of seasons, is on the offensive line. They've lost Matt Kalil to a hip injury, Andre Smith has been downright awful at right tackle, and the team is shuffling players in the hopes of getting things fixed. Flowers appears to be developing nicely at the left tackle spot for the Giants, and that's something that the Vikings could really use right now. So, I think that Flowers would be my selection.

Ed: Tell us about some young under-the-radar players on the Minnesota roster that Giants fans should be aware of.

Chris: I'd say to keep an eye on #99, Danielle Hunter, on the defensive side of the ball. Hunter was the youngest player in the league in his rookie season, and doesn't turn 22 until this coming November. He was thought to be a bit of a project, but is already turning into a big-time contributor in the defensive end rotation. His sack of Cam Newton for a safety sparked the rally in Carolina last weekend. On offense, Giants fans might be familiar with Jerick McKinnon, particularly if they play fantasy football and used an early pick on Adrian Peterson. McKinnon got a long touchdown run against the Giants in last year's game, and is now going to be the featured back with Peterson out of action. Minnesota needs to get some semblance of a running game going, and McKinnon is going to have to play a big role in that. Also on offense, Adam Thielen has been a player that has made a big impact so far. He started out as a good story, a local kid that played his college ball in Mankato where the Vikings have Training Camp every year, but he's fought his way up the depth chart and is now the Vikings' #2 or #3 receiver, depending on who you ask.