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Cover 4: First thoughts on Wild Card matchup


The sixth-seeded Giants (9-7-1) will face the third-seeded Vikings (13-4) at U.S. Bank Stadium on Super Wild Card Weekend. Kickoff is set for 4:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, Jan. 15.

The crew convened to give their initial thoughts on the week ahead:

John Schmeelk: Daniel Jones did his best Santa Claus impression in Minnesota on Christmas Eve, dishing out gifts to his wide receivers all over the field. Jones' 42 pass attempts were the second-most he had all year (44 vs. Detroit) and he completed greater than 70% of them. His 334 yards was his second-most to the Detroit game. The Giants' three pass plays of 25+ yards was tied for the most in any game this season (with the Houston game).

What came along with all those pass attempts? Two turnovers. Daniel Bellinger was stripped after catching a pass on a crossing pattern. And Jones threw an interception on pass thrown behind Isaiah Hodgins. Will the Giants maintain their aggressive pass-heavy approach? Will the Vikings adjust their coverage tendencies from the game where their combination of zone and man concepts left the middle of the field exposed? The Giants only ran it 21 times with Saquon Barkley finishing the game with 14 carries. He did have eight catches, but will he get more rushing attempts?

The chess match between Giants offensive coordinator Mike Kafka and head coach Brian Daboll vs. Vikings defensive coordinator Ed Donatell is going to be the guiding force behind what this game ultimately looks like on Sunday.

Dan Salomone: Get your sphygmomanometer ready. Giants and Vikings fans alike have needed to check their blood pressure every Sunday as their respective teams played in close game after close game. The Giants played in 13 games decided by one possession and went 8-4-1. The Vikings, on the other hand, played 11 games decided by eight points or fewer – and won all of them. And no one needs a reminder of Greg Joseph's game-winner in Week 16, which was the fifth field goal in NFL history that was 61+ yards with zero time remaining in the fourth quarter and the second that sent the Giants to defeat. Oh, and the week before that, Minnesota overcame a 33-0 deficit, the largest comeback victory in NFL history. This game won't be over until the final Gjallarhorn.

View rare photos of the Giants' history playing on Wild Card Weekend in the NFL Playoffs.

Lance Medow: When the Vikings and Giants met in Minneapolis in Week 16, the Giants piled up 445 total yards of offense but they didn't maximize their drives, settling for two touchdowns and three field goals. They had two turnovers in Minnesota territory, and a drop on third down that short-circuited another drive late in the fourth quarter with the Giants trailing by four. Add in a blocked punt that handed the Vikings the ball at the New York 29 (which ultimately led to a Minnesota touchdown) and you've got several costly mistakes that impacted the outcome.

The Vikings' offense has been fairly consistent this season. They're averaging 25 points per game (eighth in the NFL) and have produced 27 or more in 10 of their 17 games, including two weeks ago against New York. It's a product of an extremely dangerous skill position group highlighted by Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, T.J. Hockenson and Dalvin Cook. They also just activated tight end Irv Smith Jr off IR. The bottom line for this game is the onus will be on the Giants' offense to match the Vikings' firepower and duplicate the yardage from the first matchup with better finishes. How Daniel Jones and Co. fare will determine the direction of this game. Minnesota set a NFL record this season by going 11-0 in one-score affairs. Much like the Giants, Kevin O'Connell's group is used to playing close contests. Based on volume, this situation clearly doesn't fluster them. That's why the little things on offense will add up for New York.

Matt Citak: The Giants finished the regular season with 41 sacks, good for the 13th-most in the league. But in Sunday's Wild Card matchup in Minnesota, Wink Martindale's unit has a great opportunity to get after Vikings QB Kirk Cousins early and often.

The Giants registered four sacks of Cousins on Christmas Eve, as Jaylon Smith, Landon Collins, Leonard Williams and Azeez Ojulari each picked up one apiece. For Ojulari, it was one of his only plays that day as the second-year outside linebacker hurt his ankle on the sack. The injury limited him to just 22 snaps total, or 31 percent of the Giants' defensive plays. He returned on New Year's Day to play seven snaps against the Indianapolis Colts, and after getting two weeks off leading up to this weekend's contest, Ojulari will hopefully be closer to full health. The same goes for Williams, who has been dealing with a neck injury in recent weeks. Having both players at or close to 100 percent would provide the pass rush a significant boost.

Although the health of the Giants seems to be trending in one direction, that of the Vikings appears to be headed in the other. Last week, Minnesota placed right tackle Brian O'Neill on injured reserve. O'Neill didn't miss a single offensive snap this season until he suffered a calf injury against the Packers in Week 17. He had been one of their top O-linemen after earning a trip to the Pro Bowl last year. Additionally, starting center Garrett Bradbury hasn't played since injuring his back against the New York Jets in Week 13. He may have a chance of suiting up this weekend, but his absence from practice last week puts his status up in the air. Austin Schlottmann, who had started four games at center in place of the injured Bradbury, was placed on injured reserve last week with a fractured left fibula. This left third-string center Chris Reed as the starter in the regular-season finale.

The Vikings surrendered 47 sacks on the year, including 13 in the final three games leading up to Week 18. This season total ranked as the eighth-most in the league. Minnesota's O-line will be down at least one and possibly two starters and the Giants' pass rush is getting closer to full health, so Martindale may be able to take advantage of this matchup.

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

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