EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants will attempt to win their third consecutive game and climb above .500 when they host the Minnesota Vikings Sunday in MetLife Stadium. Both teams are 2-2. The Giants defeated Tampa Bay and Washington in their last two games, while the Vikings lost last Sunday in Chicago, 16-6.
Minnesota is 0-2 on the road this season. This is the team's first meeting since Oct. 3, 2016, a 24-10 Vikings victory in U.S. Bank Stadium. The Giants last hosted Minnesota on Oct. 21, 2013, when they earned a 23-7 Monday night victory. The Vikings have won six of the last eight meetings dating to 2005 and lead the regular-season series, 15-10. The Giants lead the postseason series, 2-1.
What is the Vikings' biggest strength?
Defense, defense, defense. Minnesota lines up with Pro Bowlers at every level of the defense, including Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffen and former Giant Linval Joseph on the line, Anthony Barr at linebacker and Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith in the secondary, where four of the top five players are former first-round draft choices. The Vikings have allowed more than 16 points just once (21 at Green Bay) and are tied for fifth in the NFL in scoring defense (15.8 points a game). They are sixth in total defense (312.8 yards allowed per game), seventh vs. the run (94.3) and fifth in third down defense (opponents have converted 15 of 50 opportunities, just 30%). Facing this dynamic defense will easily present Daniel Jones with the most formidable challenge in his first three NFL starts.
Which player is key to the Vikings' offense?
Make that players. Dalvin Cook is a third-year pro who has become one of the of the NFL's most dangerous running backs. He was the only back in the league to open the season with three consecutive 100-yard games and his 410 rushing yards place him second in the league, just one yard behind Christian McCaffrey. Cook also leads Minnesota with 15 receptions. Wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen both had 1,000-yard seasons in 2018. They each have 13 catches and have combined for three touchdowns this season. Tight end Kyle Rudolph is a two-time Pro Bowler who has scored 41touchdowns on 391 career receptions. Quarterback Kirk Cousins finished second in the NFL last season with a completion percentage of 70.1.
What is the strength of the Vikings' offense?
Their punishing ground game. Minnesota runs an old-school attack that frequently deploys two backs. C.J. Ham plays as much as any NFL fullback. Minnesota has run the ball on 52.2% of its offensive plays – 62.2% on second down – the league's second-highest percentage behind San Francisco (56.7). Cook makes the operation lethal; his 5.8-yard average is also second in the NFL, behind Baltimore's Mark Ingram (6.0). Those two players are tied for the league lead with five rushing touchdowns. And when Cook gets a breather, it's no break for the opposition. Rookie backup Alexander Mattison, a third-round draft choice from Boise State, has averaged 5.1 yards and scored a touchdown on his 27 carries. First-round draft choice and center Garrett Bradbury anchors an outstanding run-blocking offensive line.
Which player is key to the Vikings' defense?
Many to choose from again, but at the front of the line stands Griffen. The three-time Pro Bowler is a disruptive, relentless pass rusher who can wreck a game by himself. Which brings us to…
What is the strength of the Vikings' defense?
… Griffen doesn't have to perform solo, because Hunter is just as troublesome harassing quarterbacks from the opposite end. They are not just the best duo of pass rushers the Giants have faced this season, they might be the best in the NFL. Griffen and Hunter have combined for 101.5 career sacks, including 5.0 this season. Hunter opened the season with 10 pressures of Atlanta's Matt Ryan. The following week, Griffen pressured Aaron Rodgers 11 times in Green Bay. It seems likely Jones will see one or both of them at some point during Sunday's game.
Which player is key to the Vikings' special teams?
Return specialist Marcus Sherels returned to the Vikings on Sept. 24 after reaching an injury settlement with the New Orleans Saints, with whom he signed as a free agent in March. Sherels was with Minnesota from 2010-18 and holds the franchise record with five punt return touchdowns, including an 86-yarder vs. the Giants in MetLife in 2013. He has a career average of 10.5 yards on 235 punt returns and 25.5 yards on 53 kickoff returns. Sherels is a big-play threat anytime he touches the ball.
Based on the scouting report, what must the Giants do to win the game?
Take advantage of their scoring opportunities when they get them. Minnesota hasn't allowed more than 25 points in 12 games dating back to least season, and more than 20 points just five times in that span. The Vikings are good at nullifying an opposing offense's strength. The defense gets off the field on third down. It's possible the Giants will have relatively few chances to get into the end zone. They must capitalize when they do.
Statistics you should know:
*Cousins' record as a starting quarterback is 36-39-2. But since 2015, he is 19-8-1 following a team loss (not counting a win in a season opener following a loss in the previous year's finale). Minnesota lost last week to the Bears.
*In their first three games, the Vikings rushed for 172 yards vs. Atlanta, 198 yards at Green Bay and 211 yards against Oakland before they were limited to 40 yards last week in Chicago.
*Minnesota has forced six opposition turnovers and scored touchdowns after five of them, an 83.3 percentage that is second in the league (Baltimore is four-for-four).
*Smith owns the Vikings franchise records for touchdowns on interception returns (four, including one vs. the Giants in 2015) and sacks by a defensive back (12.0).
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