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Playoff Preview: Giants, Vikings set for high-stakes rematch

DANIEL-JONES-VERIZON

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Three years ago, Adoree' Jackson played for a Tennessee Titans team that finished 9-7 and was the sixth and lowest seed in the AFC playoffs. Those Titans went on the road to defeat third-seeded New England and top-seeded Baltimore before losing the conference championship game to Kansas City, which was seeded second.

This season, Jackson played on a Giants team that was 9-7-1 and is seeded sixth in the NFC playoffs.

Jackson said this week the two teams shared some very important traits.

"Just the fight, the grit and the willingness to compete and keep battling no matter what's going on," Jackson said. "That's one of the similarities that I'd say I'd take away from that."

Last year, the conference's sixth seed, San Francisco, won at Dallas and Green Bay to advance to the conference title game, where the 49ers lost to the Rams.

The Giants hope to take the first step of a postseason run when they face the Minnesota Vikings in an NFC Wild Card Game in U.S. Bank Stadium. The third-seeded Vikings won the NFC North title with a 13-4 record, including a 27-24 triumph three weeks ago today in the same venue.

The Giants are seeking their first postseason victory since beating the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI in 2011. This was their first winning season and tomorrow's game will be their initial playoff game since a wild card loss in Green Bay six years ago. The only Giants player who appeared in that game and is on the current roster is Landon Collins.

The franchise has won eight NFL championships, including four Super Bowls, and is making its 33rd postseason appearance. Only Green Bay and Dallas have more.

"This organization has a long history of success, winning and postseason success," quarterback Daniel Jones said. "For us to be a part of that, it's about us as a group and what we can do as a team this year as part of that history, and part of the storied legacy of this organization. I think that's the big thing."

A new generation of Giants, led by first-year coach Brian Dabolland playoff newcomers such as Jones, Saquon Barkley, Dexter Lawrence and Xavier McKinney, will begin authoring a new chapter in the team's postseason history. Energized by the high stakes and excited for the opportunity, they believe their chance is as good as anyone's to be the last team standing.

"I think it means a lot to all of us – a lot of guys who have been here these past few years," Jones said. "And to be on the other side of it, it means a lot. It's about what we do now, from this point on, and how we handle this opportunity, how we prepare and ultimately how we play, how we execute on Sunday. We're certainly happy we are where we are. But there's a lot more. We got a lot more work left for us."

"Obviously, when you get in the playoffs it's a new season," McKinney said. "Anything can happen when you get in, and we're in. We see it as another game that we have to go in there and be 1-0. You've got to be 1-0 to get to the next round and if you don't, then you're eliminated. We're just going out there playing and trying to get a win."

The Vikings are a formidable opponent. They ranked seventh in the NFL with 361.5 yards a game and eighth with 24.9 points a game. They have a veteran quarterback in Kirk Cousins who will make his fourth postseason start, the league's best wide receiver in Justin Jefferson, an outstanding tight end in T.J. Hockenson, an elusive back in Dalvin Cook and a line that should be bolstered by the return from injuries in center Garrett Bradbury and tackle Blake Brandel.

Cousins was fourth in the league with both 424 completions and 4,547 passing yards and he tossed 29 touchdown passes against 14 interceptions.

"I think he's done a nice job of running this offense and keeping everybody involved in the game," defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said. "It's easier said than done, and I think that's where he can spread the ball around. And everybody's expecting the ball. And when everybody's expecting the ball, that's when the offense is clicking on all sides. So, it's going to be a great challenge."

U.S. Bank is one of the NFL's most inhospitable venues for visiting teams. The fans create a din that makes it difficult for the opposing team to operate efficiently.

"The hardest thing is communication – hearing the calls and what he (Jones) says, right or left, whatever the case may be," wideout Richie James said. "That's really the hardest thing because we practice that every day with the music up loud. We try to simulate it as much as we can. You kind of got to block it out a little bit, but obviously on third downs, that's when it's the loudest it can get."

Minnesota was 11-0 in one-score games in 2022, the most such wins in a single season by any team in NFL history. The Vikings were 9-1 vs. opponents with a .500 or worse record.

"They make plays when it matters the most and the coaches do a good job of putting them in play," Daboll said. "They're consistent. That they play for 60 minutes. They're a tough out."

The Giants are also as healthy as they've been in a while. They had no players on their final injury report. Jackson is expected to play for the first time since Nov. 20 when he injured his knee against Detroit.

Good health isn't the Giants' only attribute. They are infused with a determination to prove they're as worthy as anyone to be in this playoff field and not satisfied simply because they earned a playoff berth few expected them to when the season began.

"We've been through close games," said running back Matt Breida, who joins James and kicker Graham Gano as current Giants with Super Bowl experience. "I think you have to have that as a team during the season. I feel like this team has fought back from every type of adversity – having turnovers, being down in the fourth quarter, being up. I think we were battle-tested, and I think we'll be fine."

"I believe in us," safety Julian Love said. "When you look at the season, it's been – it hasn't been perfect, but it's been a lot of fun because we've won a lot of close games and we've done a lot of key things in critical situations. Right now, everyone is fired up. Once you're in the playoffs, the attention to detail heightens and when we're on our details – this team – the sky is the limit."

View photos from practice as the Giants get ready for their Wild Card matchup against the Minnesota Vikings.

*The Giants' regular-season point differential was minus-6, while Minnesota finished at minus-3. The Vikings went 13-4, but their losses were by 17, 37, 11 and 24 points.

This will be the fourth playoff game in NFL history between teams that both had negative point differentials in the regular season. The visiting team won the last two. The lone home winners were the Vikings – 40 years ago.

1982 NFC Wild Card: Atlanta (-16) at Minnesota (-11). Vikings won, 30-24.

1989 AFC Wild Card: Pittsburgh (-61) at Houston (-47). Steelers won, 26-23 in overtime.

2004 NFC Wild Card: St. Louis (-73) at Seattle (-2). Rams, won, 27-20.

All three winners lost in the divisional round.

The 2011 Giants, who were also minus-6, are only team to win a Super Bowl after having a negative point differential in the regular season.

*Daboll, Minnesota's Kevin O'Connell and Miami's Mike McDaniel all led their teams to the postseason as rookie head coaches, matching the highest number of first-year head coaches in a single postseason matching the NFL record for a single postseason (also three in 1992 and 2008).

*In addition to those three, Jacksonville's Doug Pederson and Tampa Bay's Todd Bowles are in the postseason in their first seasons with those teams. Previously, the most head coaches in their first seasons at the helm in a single postseason was four in 1997 (the Giants' Jim Fassel, New England's Pete Carroll, San Francisco's Steve Mariucci, and Detroit's Bobby Ross).

*This is the sixth instance since postseason restructuring in 1990 that every matchup in the wild card round is a regular season rematch (first time since 2009).

*At least one sixth seed has won a wild card game in eight of the last nine seasons (all but 2016).

*The No. 6 seeds have won seven of their last eight wild card games (both won in 2018, 2019 and 2020, and the 49ers defeated Dallas in 2021; the only loss was the Patriots to the Bills last year.

*The Giants have 17 players with postseason experience, the Vikings have 22.

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

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