New York Giants (2-1) at Minnesota (3-0)
With stellar defensive play, excellent special teams and a bit of offense, Minnesota beat Carolina, 22-10; thanks in part to three turnovers and 11 penalties, the Giants squandered a 21-9 lead in losing to Washington, 29-27.
This will be the 28th meeting between the two clubs. The Vikings hold a 15-12 advantage. Their most recent matchup occurred last December at TCF Bank Stadium when Minnesota destroyed the Giants, 49-17. The win over the Giants clinched a playoff berth for Minnesota.
A win on Monday night would give the New York franchise its 700th victory.
According to FiveThirtyEight, the Vikings are the fifth team since 1990 to begin the season 3-0 while producing under 800 yards of offense.
Minnesota has scored just two points in the first quarter this season. The Vikings have trailed in all three games: 10-0 at Tennessee, 7-0 versus Green Bay and 10-0 at Carolina. Minnesota has outscored opponents 27-0 in the third quarter.
The Vikings are tied with Buffalo for fewest first downs after three weeks: 43.
The Purple have a plus-8 turnover differential, which is best in the league. The Giants are at minus-six, good for 31st.
Manning’s Minnesota Meltdowns
If New York quarterback Eli Manning played against the Vikings every week, he’d be battling for a backup job in the Arena League. In eight career games against the Vikes, Manning has completed 54.1 percent of his passes for 1,445 yards, five touchdowns and a whopping 14 interceptions. His 54.8 passing rating versus Minnesota is his lowest against any team that he has played at least five times.
So far this season, Manning has been effective. He is averaging 308 yards passing a game and is second in the NFL in yards per attempt at 8.64. Manning’s 98.1 passer rating is considerably higher than his career rating (83.8), and his completion percentage (71.0) is a big improvement over his career number (59.5 percent). However, Manning did throw two costly interceptions last week, including one on the potential game-winning drive.
Building with Bradford
Minnesota’s Sam Bradford rebounded from an inept first half against Carolina to post solid numbers: 18-for-28 for 153 yards and one touchdown. According to Pro Football Focus, Bradford threw seven passes that traveled more than 10 yards in the air. On those throws, he was 5-7 for 78 yards and a touchdown. When pressured, Bradford was 4-for-10 for 31 yards. A week after relying on Stefon Diggs, Bradford formed a solid bond with tight end Kyle Rudolph at Carolina. Rudolph snagged seven passes for 70 yards and a TD. Pro Football Focus rated Rudolph as the best tight end of Week 3.
In his two games in purple, Bradford has completed 67.8 percent of his passes for 457 yards and three touchdowns. He hasn’t turned the ball over in compiling a 107.8 passer rating, which is stellar compared to his 81.6 career rating. While the Vikings haven’t made many trips to the red zone, Bradford has been effective when inside opponents’ 20-yard-line with a 125.0 QB rating.
Minnesota’s defense and special teams have just as many touchdowns as the Vikings offense: three. The main culprit for offensive inefficiency has been the running attack. The Vikings are last in the league in yards per carry (2.1) and rushing first downs (seven). They lead the league in stuffs (17 running plays that netted zero or negative yardage) and their longest run of the year is a mere 14 yards. Overall, Minnesota is 30th in yards per play (4.6) and 24th in third-down conversions (32.5 percent). Last week against the Panthers, the Vikings, excluding kneel-downs at the end of the half and game, averaged 3.9 yards on first down. On the plus side, the makeshift Minnesota offensive line did open a few holes for Jerick McKinnon (16 rushes for 45 yards) and allowed only two sacks of Bradford. For Minnesota to be considered a truly elite team, the offense will soon have to do its part because the turnover advantage and defensive touchdowns aren’t sustainable.
Could the Vikings break out of their offensive funk against New York? If they do, it will come at the expense of a decent defense. The Giants are giving up five yards per play (10th in the league) and 20.3 points a game (11th). They have been stout against the run with opponents averaging just 3.2 yards a carry. New York is 15th against the pass, surrendering 262.3 yards a game. Opposing quarterbacks have compiled an 88.0 passer rating.
Big plays have been missing from the Giants defense. They have no interceptions, forced just two fumbles and recorded only four sacks.
Purple People Eaters
With 15 sacks in three games, the Vikings are on pace to break the franchise’s single-season record of 71 in 1989. Last week, they pummeled Cam Newton eight times while limiting the reigning MVP to a 47.6 passer rating and 26 yards rushing. NFC Defensive Player of the Week Everson Griffen recorded three sacks and nine hurries. When the Vikings blitzed, Newton was 6-for-11 for 61 yards and was sacked three times, according to Pro Football Focus. The Minnesota secondary also did a fabulous job containing Carolina wideout Kelvin Benjamin. A week after catching seven passes for 108 yards versus San Francisco, Benjamin didn’t have a single reception against the Vikings.
Can the Vikings blanket another excellent receiver this week? Odell Beckham Jr. leads the Giants with 19 catches for 280 yards (14.74 average) but has yet to score a touchdown. Impressive rookie Sterling Shepard has recorded two touchdowns among his 16 receptions.
On the ground, the Giants have lost leading rusher Shane Vereen (31-147 yards) to injury, which means the Vikings could see more of Rashad Jennings (31-102), who didn’t play last week because of a thumb injury and might not this week, Orleans Darkwa (11-52), and the seldom-used tandem of Bobby Rainey and rookie Paul Perkins.
If statistics prove true, Minnesota shouldn’t have many problems with the Giants running attack. The Vikings’ suffocating defense is first in the league in yards allowed per play (4.4) and third in scoring defense at 13.3 points a game. Overall, the defense is giving up 211 yards passing and 84 yards rushing each week. In addition to the 15 sacks, the unit has picked off five passes and is holding opposing quarterbacks to a 69.5 passer rating.
According to the computer analysis of fivethirtyeight.com, Minnesota has a 78 percent chance of beating the Giants.
WhatIfSports.com‘s NFL simulation engine had the Vikings winning 66.1 percent of the 501 simulated matchups versus the Giants. The average score was 25-19.