The Minnesota Vikings have clinched their first NFC North title since 2017. Yep, nothing else notable happened this past week against the Indianapolis Colts. It was just another close victory for the Vikings as they escaped with a 39-36 overtime win. Oh wait… that’s right, I completely forgot, they just so happened to fall behind 33-0 by halftime and then were able to orchestrate the NFL’s largest comeback ever to win on a Greg Joseph field goal at the buzzer. I probably should mention that. Looking forward to this week’s game against the New York Giants provides another good test for the Vikings.
1. Control the Clock By Running the Ball
Vikings running back Dalvin Cook is coming off his best game of the year with 190 yards from scrimmage and he is going to look to continue that success against the weak Giants run defense. The New York defense ranks 30th in the NFL at stopping the run allowing over 150 yards per game on the ground. This includes a league-worst 5.4 yards per carry, meaning the more the merrier when it comes to Dalvin Cook touching the ball. It is no coincidence that Cook had his best game of the year in the first game with Christian Darrisaw back from a concussion. Keeping Darrisaw healthy down the stretch will help Minnesota maintain a potent dual-threat offense.
2. All Hands on Deck to Stop Saquon Barkley
Saquon Barkley is back healthy this year for the Giants and has finally been able to return to his full potential (which is absolutely great for the NFL). It is not exactly groundbreaking for me to say that the Vikings need to focus on stopping Barkley. The Giants have not been near the back of the pack when it comes to passing the ball, so the Vikings’ defense should be able to pour plenty of resources into slowing down the Giants’ run game. This is a matchup that should favor the strengths of the Vikings’ defense as they have struggled tremendously against the pass, but have faired okay against the run. If the defense is able to find success stopping the run on early downs, they can make Daniel Jones have to beat them with his arm. Something I do not have confidence in Jones to do.
3. Start Fast on Both Offense and Defense
My immediate gut feeling for this game, as discussed in my previous two keys to the game, is that both teams will want to run the ball. This means that whichever team scores first could have the ability to control the game throughout. The Vikings could definitely use a game where they run the ball 30+ times and the defense is able to stay off the field as much as possible. If Minnesota can score early through the air and then get a stop or two on defense to start the game, they can switch to a “Zimmer-style” offense and utilize Cook against the Giants’ weak run defense. The Giants have been poor at winning the time of possession battle lately, averaging just over 27 minutes of possession per game over their past three games. This feels very much like a game where whoever wins the time of possession battle will win the game.
The Vikings’ offense is able to move the ball very efficiently with Dalvin Cook on the ground as they get an early lead and keep the Giants’ defense on the field. Vikings 27, Giants 19