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Keys to Victory: 'Tis the season to be clinching

KEYS-TO-VICTORY

'Tis the season to be clinching.

The New York Giants (8-5-1) are circling their first playoff berth since 2016 and could unwrap it as early as this week if the following happens:

  • NYG win + WAS loss + DET loss OR
  • NYG win + WAS loss + SEA loss OR
  • NYG win + DET loss + SEA loss

Regardless of other outcomes, the Giants are where every team ultimately wants to be, which is in control of their own destiny. They will play past Week 18 as long as they win out, starting with a trip to Minnesota to take on the Vikings (11-3) on Christmas Eve.

"It's definitely exciting, but I don't think it's extra motivation," quarterback Daniel Jones said. "I think we're going to prepare as hard as we can, and that doesn't change week to week. I think we've been doing that. We're treating it one week at a time, and this is an awesome opportunity for us. I don't think the preparation or the approach changes, but we're certainly excited for the opportunity."

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

Here are three things the Giants must do to defeat the NFC North champions:

Keep the pressure on

The pressure only builds from here in the playoff hunt, and that's precisely what the Giants want to apply on Kirk Cousins. The Vikings' quarterback can tear apart defenses if they keep it simple. Fittingly, the Giants enter with a league-high 45.3 percent blitz rate. They also run Cover-0 more than any team, and Cousins' 39.4 completion percentage against such pressure is fourth-lowest in the NFL. Kayvon Thibodeaux, the reigning NFC Defensive Player of the Week, and the rest of the defensive front have picked a good time to start coming on strong.

Just don't let Dalvin cook

Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale told his team that Minnesota's Justin Jefferson is one of the top two receivers in the league, "and he's not number two." In all seriousness, you can double- or triple-team him, but he still catches the ball. If you are going to draw up any one-on-one situation, Martindale said, you better pick the right spot to do it.

Although you always want to take away your opponent's strength, the Vikings have won with Jefferson's lowest yardage total of the season (14) and lost with his highest (223). Coincidentally, both of those extremes came against the Lions.

What really translates to wins and losses, however, is running back Dalvin Cook. Minnesota is 9-0 when the three-time Pro Bowler rushes for at least 75 yards this season. He is especially dangerous on the edge as his 798 rush yards on outside carries are second-most behind Cleveland's Nick Chubb. The Giants, meanwhile, have allowed 5.8 yards per carry on outside runs, third-most in the league.

It isn't over until it's over

Week 15 saw the largest comeback in NFL history and three games with comeback wins of at least 17 points, the most in a week in NFL history. The Vikings headlined the chaos by erasing a 33-point deficit to defeat Indianapolis in overtime. One-possession games are nothing new for either team this week. The Giants are 8-2-1 in such games this season, while the Vikings are 10-0.

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