In every NFL matchup, there are a seemingly endless amount of angles to analyze. It’s hard to get to them all during the week of practice, and I’m sure there were some that slipped through the cracks despite all of the Vikings vs. Giants preview content we provided on vikings.com this week.
As we sit here just hours before tonight’s Monday Night Football showdown, I thought I’d try to cover a few more bases and provide a few final thoughts on the Vikings game against the Giants.
-- Let’s talk turnovers. The Vikings have 12 takeaways in five games, a respectable number than still ranks tied for 13th in the NFL even though many teams have played one more game than the Vikings. Also, the Giants have given the ball away more than any other team in the NFL – 23 times, which is six more than the next team (Arizona with 17). In what I anticipate to be a fairly high-scoring game, it’s important for the Vikings to capitalize on this aspect of the matchup. The Vikings defense must continue forcing turnovers from Giants offense that is prone to such mistakes, and then the Vikings offense must score off those turnovers, which the Giants are also allowing to happen at an alarming rate. Only one team (Houston – 75) has allowed opponents to score more points off turnovers than the Giants total of 68.
-- Tonight may be a good breakout opportunity for Cordarrelle Patterson. The dynamic rookie has been a difference-maker whenever he’s gotten his hands on a kickoff return, and I expect that to be the case tonight. Additionally, though, Josh Freeman being the starter could open up opportunities for the vertical passing game because his skill set is more suited for that kind of attack. Obviously, Patterson is a great option in the vertical passing game because of his size/speed combination. I also wonder if Patterson will get any reps as a punt returner. With AJ Jefferson likely not playing and with Marcus Sherels possibly seeing more reps as a result, perhaps the Vikings will be moved to give Patterson a few of Sherels punt return reps to save him for defensive snaps. Pure speculation on my part, but it makes sense when you think about it – it’s just one more way to get the football in Patterson’s hands.
-- One matchup I’ll be keeping an eye on all night is Vikings defensive end Jared Allen against Giants left tackle Will Beatty. In order for the Vikings to achieve the objective I set forth in the first bullet point, they must be able to pressure Eli Manning. The Vikings pass rush begins and ends with Allen. When Allen beats his man consistently to pressure the passer, opposing teams must take extra steps to slow him down. When you take extra steps to slow down Allen, you leave other Vikings pass rushers one-on-one. And that’s when the Vikings defense is at its best. If the Giants are forced to use running backs and tight ends, or even better the left guard, to double-team Allen, then guys such as Sharrif Floyd, Everson Griffen, Brian Robison and Kevin Williams are going to get great one-on-one opportunities.