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Giants vs. Vikings: Week 16 storylines to follow

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Following their big win in primetime, the Giants are back on the road for a Christmas Eve matchup against the Minnesota Vikings.

The Sunday night win over the Washington Commanders brought the Giants' record to 8-5-1. They currently hold the No. 6 seed in the NFC and control their own playoff destiny. With wins in their final three games, the Giants will make the playoffs for the first time since 2016 and are guaranteed no worse than the sixth seed.

The Vikings are coming off their own epic game in which they came from behind to defeat the Indianapolis Colts, 39-36, to improve their record to 11-3. The win clinched their first NFC North title since 2017.

Here are five storylines to follow in the Week 16 matchup:

1. Facing 'resilient' Vikings

The Vikings went into halftime of their Week 15 game against the Colts down, 33-0. But head coach Kevin O'Connell seemed to spark a fire under his team in the second half as they stormed back and beat Indianapolis, 39-36. The 33-point comeback was the largest in NFL history.

"That was a great comeback. Unbelievable comeback. Pretty resilient team…" coach Brian Daboll told the media Tuesday. "I think that's a testament to Coach O'Connell, and the rest of the guys on that team."

Daboll and O'Connell are no strangers to each other. The latter is a former college quarterback who played four years at San Diego State. When he was coming out of college ahead of the 2008 draft, Daboll, then serving as the quarterbacks coach of the New York Jets, worked out O'Connell.

"Showing my age but he's done a really nice job with that team, they've won a lot of one-score games," said Daboll. "Give credit to the players, but give credit to him and his staff too. They've got a lot of good coaches on that staff and to be where they're at right now is a testament to him and his team. Smart player, really good guy, good family, he's done a nice job for that organization."

2. DJ's leadership, consistency

For the third consecutive year, Daniel Jones was voted a team captain by his teammates before the season started. Jones has rewarded the team by making every start under center. In fact, with the fourth-year quarterback set to start Sunday's game in Minnesota, Jones will have started a career-high 15 games, with two more left on the schedule. Daboll has constantly praised the quarterback for his attitude and leadership.

"He's a true pro," the head coach said about Jones. "And he's a good leader. I know he's kind of a quiet guy. But in the huddle, he's a good leader with those guys. He knows everybody's responsibilities. He can get things lined up; he can correct mistakes. He's a problem solver. So, I think the guys have a lot of respect for him…

"He's a competitor and I think that's why his teammates respect him so much. I think he's just very levelheaded and that helps too when sometimes there's chaos in the game; whether that's in the pocket, whether you're down. I think he's really been the model of consistency with his attitude and his approach and that's what I appreciate about him."

In addition to setting a new mark in starts, Jones has also improved his ball security. Through 14 games, the 25-year-old has thrown just four interceptions and has a career-best 1.0 percent interception rate, the best mark in the league. Although there are likely several factors for the improvement, Daboll gave all of the credit to his young quarterback.

"We have certain reads and things in our offense that we teach. And he just goes out and executes well," Daboll said. "So, he's done everything that we've asked him to do in terms of the things that we need to do each game. Again, it's never going to be perfect. It's a hard position to play. I think he's got some confidence. We have confidence in him. We just put together a game plan that we think will work well for us as a team but (also will) work well for him, too, as a quarterback."

3. Safeties stepping up

The Giants have been without starting safety Xavier McKinney since the Week 9 bye. McKinney's absence has led to a larger role for several players, including Jason Pinnock. The Giants claimed Pinnock off waivers from the Jets at the end of training camp, and over the past four weeks, the second-year safety has seen his playing time increase. Since Week 12, the 23-year-old has registered 26 total tackles, three pass breakups and a forced fumble while playing at least 84 percent of the team's defensive snaps in each game.

"I think Pinnock has done an excellent job of fitting into our defense," said Daboll. "I think the defensive coaches have used him the right way, whether it's in the deep part of the field, down in the box, blitzing. He's been a good addition for us."

Tony Jefferson and Landon Collins did not start the season with the Giants, but both have also made their impacts felt. Jefferson was signed to the practice squad on Sept. 1 and promoted to the active roster a month later. Collins signed to the practice squad on Oct. 6 and has been elevated to the active roster three times. Both veterans have left a good impression on their head coach.

"They're interchangeable," Daboll said about the two safeties. "They can play multiple spots. They're extremely smart, both of them. Tony's been in the system before. So, I think he's got a good understanding of how we do things defensively. And Landon is just an instinctive guy. He did a good job last week."

View rare photos from the all-time series between the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings

4. Splitting time at LG?

Following a six-game absence, guard Ben Bredeson made his return to the field on Sunday night. The third-year lineman played 42 offensive snaps (67 percent) at left guard against the Commanders and was notably on the field for the team's 18-play, 97-yard touchdown drive at the end of the first half. Bredeson split time with Nick Gates, who played the other 33 percent of the snaps at left guard (21 snaps), and Daboll seemed pleased with how both linemen played.

"I think Ben's done a good job," said Daboll. "He's been a good player for us when we've asked him to be in there, he's coming back from an injury. I thought he did some good things last game. Still, you try to work those guys in that are coming back. Him, Gates, (center Jon) Feliciano, (guard Mark) Glo (Glowinski), we have a lot of confidence in all four of those guys."

In the first two games of the season, Bredeson split time at left guard with rookie Joshua Ezeudu (now on injured reserve) before the veteran won the full-time job. Daboll would not rule out Bredeson and Gates continuing their rotation at guard moving forward.

"I think we'll go through it this week," the head coach said. "I think they've all earned the right to play, they know what to do, they're tough, competitive, so that will be a discussion we have kind of at the end of probably every week going forward."

5. Justin Jefferson 'a problem' for defenses

The Vikings have several talented playmakers in their offense, but the discussion about the unit must start with Justin Jefferson. The 23-year-old has gotten his career off to a stellar start with at least 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns in each of his first two seasons. However, his dominance has risen to a new level in his third NFL season.

Through 14 games, Jefferson has already set new career-high marks with a whopping 111 receptions for 1,623 yards, which are also the most in the league, along with seven touchdowns. After being named Second-Team All-Pro (and trips to the Pro Bowl) in each of his first two seasons, Jefferson has solidified his spot among the NFL's elite playmakers with his extraordinary 2022 campaign.

"He's extremely talented," Daboll said Tuesday. "He's got good quickness, good body control, can run any route. They line him up all over the place. I think they do a great job with him. He's hard to cover in man. He's got great awareness in zone. He's good after the catch. He can make contested catches. He's a problem."

Jefferson caught 12 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown against the Colts last week, his fifth game this season with double-digit receptions and the ninth time he's topped 100 yards. Adoree' Jackson (knee) was listed as a nonparticipant in Tuesday's walkthrough practice. If he is unable to make it back for Saturday's game, it will be up to Fabian Moreau, Cor'Dale Flott and Nick McCloud to slow down the Vikings' star receiver.

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