The New York Giants are back in the playoffs for the first time since the 2016 season. This Sunday, the sixth-seed Giants will face off against the third-seed Minnesota Vikings with a chance to win their first postseason game in over a decade. Big Blue will enter this game as the underdog, despite putting up a fair fight in the regular matchup between these two teams. This should be a hard-fought matchup that the Giants could win if they win the turnover battle, pressuring Kirk Cousins, and limiting Justin Jefferson.
Giants: 3 keys to beating the Vikings in the Wild Card Round
Winning the turnover battle
In the Giants’ Week 16 loss to the Vikings, Big Blue lost the turnover battle. The Giants turned the ball over twice on Christmas Eve. Daniel Jones threw an interception and tight end Daniel Bellinger lost a fumble. The Giants lost the turnover battle 2-0 as they were unable to force any turnovers from the Minnesota side.
Considering the Giants barely lost this game on a 61-yard field goal as time expired, those two turnovers could be viewed as the difference between winning and losing. With two more possessions to score points, the Giants could have found themselves in the driver’s seat.
In the postseason, playing clean, winning football is of the utmost importance. Daniel Jones led the NFL in the regular season with a 1.1% interception percentage. Saquon Barkley also finished the season with just one fumble and zero fumbles lost. If the Giants keep the ball clean against the Vikings, they have a chance to get those plays back and secure the victory.
Pressuring Kirk Cousins
The Minnesota Vikings are entering the postseason shorthanded on the offensive line. Their starting right tackle, Brian O’Neill, is out for the year with a partially torn Achilles. Additionally, their usual starting center, Garret Bradbury, has been out for several weeks and it is still unknown if he will be back in time for Sunday’s matchup.
According to quarterback Kirk Cousins, the Vikings have yet to define who is going to be playing in front of him on the offensive line for this weekend’s matchup. “You’re not sure yet because it’s only Wednesday. It’ll be important to get out there the next couple days and be able to practice hard and get some good, quality reps with the group together,” Cousins said (via Sports Illustrated).
With holes along the offensive line, the Giants have an opportunity to get after the quarterback. Defensive linemen Dexter Lawrence and Kayvon Thibodeaux have turned on the heat in recent weeks. Lawrence, who has a career-high 7.5 sacks this season, could be matched up against a backup center. Thibodeaux, who has three sacks in his last five games, will be facing off against a backup right tackle. These matchups will give the Giants the opportunity to get in the face of Kirk Cousins, who threw 14 interceptions in the regular season, and create some errant throws.
Limiting Justin Jefferson
In the Giants’ last contest with the Vikings, wide receiver Justin Jefferson put up 133 yards and one touchdown on Big Blue’s defense. Jefferson led the NFL in nearly every major receiving category this season. He had a historic 2022 campaign, totaling 128 receptions for 1809 yards and eight touchdowns in the regular season.
It is still unknown whether or not Giants starting cornerback Adoree’ Jackson will suit up on Sunday. Jackson has been out of the lineup with a knee injury for over a month. Big Blue’s defense has suffered from the absence of Adoree’ Jackson. No one can match up against Justin Jefferson the same way that Jackson can. If the Giants can get Adoree’ back in the lineup to slow down Justin Jefferson, it will go a long way toward their efforts in clinching the victory. Without Jackson, the Giants will need unsung heroes in the secondary to step up in the Wild Card game.