The Vikings enter their first playoff game in two years as 3-point favorites against the Giants. This will be a great game and one of the best matchups the Vikings could have asked for. There are key players that will need to perform at their best in order for the Vikings to win.
Offense: T.J Hockenson
At face value this seems obvious. In the last couple of games he has had some problems with dropping the ball, He will need to hang on to tough contested catches and be able to squeeze into tight spots. He has the opportunity to wreck this game. In the first matchup between these teams, he caught 13 balls and had 109 yards and 2 touchdowns. He can create mismatches and help open up Justin Jefferson. Another key aspect will be his blocking, Hockenson will have to stay in a few more times to help block. With Brian O’Neill out for the season, it will be very important for Hockenson to assist in the blocking game. He will have to chip at the line and serve as a heavy right side to help whoever plays right tackle. If the Vikings want to win this game, Hockenson must be at his best.
Defense: Za’Darius Smith
Smith has had a great season, however in the last few games, he has been very underwhelming. In weeks 1-10, Smith totaled 55 pressures and 9 sacks. Since then he has only 23 pressures and 1 sack. Some of these lowered stats are due to a nagging injury. Smith needs to be better and get to the quarterback. In the final game of the season Smith had 0 pressures and 0 sacks. If he produces those kinds of numbers this week, the Vikings might see themselves out of the playoffs. Daniel Jones posted a 79.4 passer grade according to PFF(Pro Football Focus), second best of the season. The Vikings only won the game by 3 on a 61-yard field goal. In order for that grade to go down, Smith must play better. The whole Vikings defense must play better and that starts with Smith.
Most of the season O’Connell has been very good and well composed. At times he has been unsure of what plays to call. This had led to many delay of games and early timeouts. He must be decisive and ready at any time during the game. If O’Connell can be confident and execute his plays, then the VIkings can win this game easily.
The VIkings have an opportunity to prove they belong. Many players must perform to their best ability to win this game. All players must come together and play a complete game. X-factors are all over the board.