Sidney Rice/Percy Harvin/Bernard Berrian vs. Kevin Dockery/Terrell Thomas
At a time when the Vikings need a win about as badly as a playoff team can, the Giants being eliminated from postseason competition could be a blessing in disguise. Rather than risk further injuries to starting cornerbacks Corey Webster and Aaron Ross, both are going to be held out this week – making the battles between the Vikings receivers and the cornerback tandem of Kevin Dockery and Terrell Thomas this week's key matchup.
For all the Giants' struggles this year, the play of Ross and Webster wasn't one of their problems. Both had played at a high level all year and were adept at preventing the big play downfield. They were the strength of a defense that has been gashed too often. With both of them out, the Giants are down to only three healthy cornerbacks on the roster – Kevin Dockery, Terrell Thomas and Bruce Johnson.
Dockery is a fourth-year pro who has made his reputation more as a special-teams player than a cornerback. He's rarely asked to take on a team's top receiver, most often seeing duty in nickel and dime defenses, where he would typically be assigned a slot receiver or tight end.
Thomas is in his second year and worked his way up to nickel back as a rookie. Although he doesn't have great makeup speed, he is a solid ball-hawk that leads the Giants with five interceptions. But, like Dockery, he was usually brought in during nickel packages and has yet to be asked to do full-time duty against top receivers on a consistent basis.
Johnson was an undrafted free agent who is so obscure the Giants don't even have a biography of him up on their team website. He is suddenly going to be seeing a lot of field time, because, with a clear disadvantage like the Giants have, the Vikings would be foolish to not exploit it.
The Vikings have proved over the course of the season that their wide receivers can compare favorably to any group in the league. Sidney Rice has caught 77 passes for 1,200 yards and six touchdowns. Percy Harvin has 53 catches for 731 yards and six touchdowns. Bernard Berrian has 53 catches for 568 yards and four touchdowns. At one point or another during the season, each of them has delivered big plays that have either given the Vikings a lead or extended a lead they already had. All three could be primed for big plays Sunday.
The Giants have little in the way of wiggle room on this battle because their depth has been depleted to the point that the three CBs that have been in uniform will have to be the guys holding down the fort. If they play a soft zone scheme, Favre will pick them apart underneath. If they go man-to-man, Favre will try to beat them deep. If they try to jump routes, Favre will likely give them a steady diet of pump fakes in hopes of cashing in on a big play.
No matter how you cut it, what was once a defensive strength for the Giants all season is now a potential liability. Veteran quarterbacks like Favre have made a living going after players like this and making them look very bad. This has the makings of a mismatch and, when the potential lopsided advantage comes in the deep passing game, that makes this a must-see matchup.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Key Matchup: Vikings WRs vs. Giants CBs
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