There is always a lot of variance in football. We do not know how the ball will bounce. With that qualifier stated, I believe the Giants can and will win the game today.
The Giants made many mistakes in the first matchup. They turned the ball over. Jones threw a pick. Bellinger fumbled a converted reception for a turnover. And still, they lost on a last second 61 yard FG.
The Giants are a better team since that game. The Vikings are not. That’s why I think the edge is with the Giants.
In today’s NFL, improvements from week to week are more important than ever. Back in the day (before Free Agency), the continuity of a roster was much greater, so the incremental pieces from one year to the next weren’t as significant. Rookies didn’t play that much either compared to today. Preseason went from 6 games down to 4, then 4 with less starters playing, to now 3 with starters not seeing much ball at all. ITS VITAL TO IMPROVE EVERY WEEK. A team needs to be much better by the end of the season. The Giants are much better. Jones is much better. The players have made significant strides. Rookies, and other players who had limited experience, are no longer rookies. This NY Giants offense is much better.
… and it will need to be much better to win this game.
Before Super Bowl XLII, Osi Umenyiora came to Michael Strahan, looked him straight in the eyes, and with paramount seriousness said- you and I need to get to Brady or we are not winning this game. This is how I see this game as well. Yes, Martindale blitzes the most in the NFL (42% of plays). But with Lawrence, Williams, Thib and Ojulari all starting, these 4 guys need to get to Cousins WITHOUT as much blitzing. Of course I know Wink is going to dial up his blitzes as sure as the day is long. Yet, I’d prefer he not have to, in order to get to Cousins with more help against Hockenson and Osborn. Hockenson is a TE, and we have no LBers. Collins will probably get some assignments on him. Hockenson lit us up last game. His YAC isn’t great but he pulls the ball down, moves the sticks, and greases that offense. Osborn is the 3rd receiving option that needs to be managed.
Jefferson needs to be doubled, because no one on the planet can guard him single. (Maybe Sauce? Did you know Sauce Gardner gave up zero TDs this season?!) Adoree Jackson is back but it’s his first game so I’m not expecting him to be in peak form (or significant snaps). He’ll help, but he’ll need help too. The pass rush, whether with 4 players or with more, helps contain the big play. Martindale knows that his bend-don’t break philosophy means he can’t let Cousins sit back and find Jefferson or Thielen on deep pass plays.
The help in containing big plays has to come from the big guys up front. They need to get to Cousins on their own. If they do, I believe that will be enough to win the game.
Part of the reason why I believe the Giants win with a pass rush is that I’m oddly not that worried about the Offense. I believe in Jones and I believe in Kafka to put the Giants in a position to make plays. The Giants offense is arguably in the best place it’s been all season. Ironically, despite the loss of Shepard, Toney and Robinson, the offense has enough. I was admittedly disappointed to hear that Hodgins was moved to questionable with an ankle but he’ll play. Slayton, James, Hodgins, Bellinger and Barkley are enough to get it done.
In Philadelphia last week we saw Golladay snag his first TD vs first stringer Slay. His craft is the jump ball. I’m sure Daboll and Kafka are thinking they can help themselves in the red zone with this tool. It was cool to see Golladay’s teammates rally around him. He’s obviously well liked. Wouldn’t it be nice to have another tool develop just in time for some playoff fireworks?!
The Vikings have some issues on their Offensive line. Center Garrett Bradbury was one of the guys we liked out of the 2019 Draft. He’s been hurt (back injury) but he returns today. I put Lawrence over Center and make Bradbury deal with that menace. All. Day. Long. Yah, you can mix it up a little but I want to wear Bradbury down. We’re gonna win this game in Q4 because Lawrence beats Bradbury in Q4. The Vikes have no one behind Bradbury, as their second stringer is out for the rest of the season. Add that RT O’Neil is gone (biggest loss) and this Giants DL must make them pay.
Speaking about getting paid, Danielle Hunter had 2 sacks, beating Evan Neal regularly on the wide rush. Neal has improved since that game. He must do better than his first game vs the Vikes. If I’m Kafka, I slow Hunter down with design plays to punish Hunter for this wide sellout, running Jones through the B gap or releasing a RB/TE through there on a delay. This will help Neal, who has yet to show me the consistent footwork/technique in handling the wide speed rush. Frankly, other than handling (limiting) that nightmare Jefferson, Neal is really the only other significant game changing variable. If Kafka can help Neal and slow down Hunter with those design plays, maybe a chip or two etc, the Offense should be fine.
This postseason is gravy! Of course I want to win and I predict one as well, but I’m also thrilled to be here in a rebuilding year. Schoen and Daboll have been terrific. It’s a renaissance for this franchise. Let’s be greedy today, but part and parcel, I’m just as grateful about the future of this franchise.