Can the New York Giants go into US Bank Stadium and knock the 3-0 Minnesota Vikings from the ranks of the unbeaten on Monday night?
Sure they can. To do so, though, the 2-1 Giants will have to do some things they have not done well so far this season, especially in a disappointing home loss to the Washington Redskins in Week 3.
- They will have to handle the raucous indoor atmosphere in Minnesota, showing better discipline and poise than they did in their 11-penalty, three-turnover Week 3 performance against the Redskins.
- They will have to win the turnover battle. The Vikings are league-best +8 in takeaway/giveaway ratio when the Giants are -6, near the bottom of the league. The Giants have been generous with the Duke and still do not have a defensive takeaway.
- With a depleted secondary, the Giants will likely have to rely on their front four to pressure Sam Bradford. The Giants have only two sacks from their defensive line thus far and Football Outsiders lists the Giants 29th in the NFL in Adjusted Sack Rate at 3.1 percent. With as many as four members of the secondary not playing Monday, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo likely won’t be able to dial up some of the exotic corner and safety blitzes he has used to generate pressure.
The Giants have a couple of other difficult tasks Monday night.
- The Vikings, as we have discussed during the buildup to the game, have a tremendous defense anchored by a pass rush that led the league with 15 sacks through three games. The Giants will have to protect the immobile Eli Manning and, perhaps without their top two running backs, find a way to open enough holes to make Minnesota respect their ability to run. Manning will have to overcome some of his own demons against the Vikings.
- With rookie undrafted free agent Andrew Adams starting at safety in his first NFL action as a defensive player and cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple probably not playing, the Giants will have to find a way to play competently in the secondary. Minnesota does not have a high-scoring offense, but quarterback Sam Bradford is an accurate passer who has played well in two starts, and wide receiver Stefon Diggs is a big-play threat.
The optimism generated by the Giants’ 2-0 start seems to have faded following last week’s damaging, self-inflicted loss to Washington. At 2-0, 92 percent of the 2,683 fans who voted in our weekly confidence poll thought the Giants were headed to the playoffs. This week, only 59 percent (1,618) of the 2,760 voters in our poll believed the Giants were playoff-bound. That’s a 33 percent drop.
There are reasons for the Giants, who are 4-point underdogs, to feel as though they have a chance to pull an upset against Minnesota.
- Despite a so-so week against Washington Manning is completing a career-high 71 percent of his passes. When he plays well, he is a good as anyone in the league.
- The Giants’ offense is reliant upon a quick-throw, short passing game that — if the Giants can avoid penalties and negative plays — would seem to be an excellent counter to the pressure Minnesota can generate in the pass rush.
- With Odell Beckham (1,493), Sterling Shepard (1,242) and Victor Cruz (1,040) all on pace for 1,00-yard receiving seasons the Giants should have some advantages on the outside.
- The Giants’ defensive line is due for a breakout performance in the pass rush department, and a less-than-stellar Minnesota offensive line might be the perfect elixir.
- The Giants, even with a patchwork secondary, can’t go forever without generating some defensive takeaways.
Put it all together and you have to believe the Giants have a chance to knock off Minnesota tonight. A New York victory would qualify as an upset, but not a monumental one.
As you will see below, most analysts think the Giants will come up short Monday night in Minnesota. As for me, I am going to follow the crowd. There are simply too many things the Giants have to do well Monday that they have not yet done consistently or at all the first three weeks for me to feel good about predicting an upset.
Final score: Vikings 20, Giants 16
BBV’s Jesse Bartolis — Giants
Pro Football Talk (Florio) — Vikings
Pro Football Talk (Smith) — Vikings
NFL.com (Harrison) — Vikings
Bleacher Report (Simms) — Giants
9 of 10 experts pick the Vikings, — SB Nation
6 of 8 experts pick the Vikings — CBS Sports
6 of 6 experts pick the Vikings — FOX Sports
5 of 5 experts pick the Vikings — USA Today
Vikings have 78 percent chance of winning — FiveThirtyEight.com