Vikings-Giants: 5 Storylines To Watch

Posted Oct 17, 2013

It's not the mid-season power matchup between two winning teams ESPN hopes for when scheduling Monday Night  Football games, but that doesn't mean there isn't a lot on the line this week for the 1-4 Vikings and 0-6 New York Giants. They will get together this Monday night at Met Life Stadium to put a close on Week 7 NFL action, and when all is said and done many will be looking to put a close on the season of whichever team comes out on the losing end.

Let’s take a look ahead at five storylines to watch this week as the Vikings and Giants prepare to battle each other on Monday Night Football…


1. Josh Freeman starts at quarterback
When the Vikings acquired Josh Freeman last week everyone wanted to know when the team would roll him out as their starter. After the Vikings scored just 10 points in a loss to the Carolina Panthers last week, everyone presumed this would be the week Freeman would start. That presumption was correct. Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier announced on Wednesday that Freeman, signed by the Vikings on October 8, would indeed be the team’s starter for Monday night’s game against the NY Giants. On one hand this is an exciting development because the team and its fans get to see just what they have in Freeman. On the other hand, though, starting your first game for a new team on the road in prime time just two weeks after joining them is a challenge. It will take time for Freeman to find where the bones are buried in the Vikings offense, to develop a rapport with his new receivers and to generally feel comfortable running the show for the Vikings offense. But that doesn’t mean he can’t lead the team to victory while becoming acclimated.


2. Vikings defense is banged up
On top of losing the game last Sunday, the Vikings lost key defenders along the way and some have more serious injuries than others. Linebacker Desmond Bishop, who earned his first start last Sunday, was lost for the season with a torn right ACL. Safety Harrison Smith, one of the team’s top defensive players, suffered what Frazier termed a turf toe injury and his prognosis is unknown for now. And rookie cornerback Xavier Rhodes sprained his ankle and was eventually forced out of the game, as well; his status is also unknown at this point in the week. The Giants may be 0-6, but this is not the kind of offense you want to go against while being short-handed in the secondary. Quarterback Eli Manning and his pair of talented receivers – Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks – can punish even a talented and full strength secondary. Facing that quarterback-receiver group and possibly being short-handed while doing so means the Vikings defensive line needs to come up huge this week, exactly as they did a few weeks ago in London when the Vikings faced Ben Roethlisberger and Co. while missing starters in the secondary.

3. Adrian Peterson on and off the field
The situation Adrian Peterson has gone through over the last week has been well-chronicled nationally and isn’t something we’ll get into here other than to acknowledge one can only wonder what kind of impact it has on his ability to perform. It’s a delicate issue to bring to light because clearly the death of a child supersedes any football concerns but it’s also fair to cite the situation as something that may or may not impact Peterson’s performance. Only Peterson can say whether and to what extent it will, and he will surely be asked that if he has his regular meeting with reporters this week. Peterson has performed and performed well in the face of adversity previously, but last Sunday the Panthers held him to 62 yards on 10 carries. The subpar rushing total was likely a product of facing a talented Carolina defensive front more so than what was happening off the field, and the matchup this week against the Giants is much more favorable for the Vikings rushing offense. The Giants are surrendering 123.3 rushing yards per game, seventh-most in the NFL, and they’ve allowed 23 runs of 10 yards, which is tied for third-most in the NFL.


4. Can the Vikings cover Eli Manning’s receivers?
If we’re going to single out the favorable matchup for the Vikings offense in terms of the running game, it’s only fair that we analyze a matchup the Giants may view as favorable for them – their passing game against a Vikings defense that has already surrendered 13 passing touchdowns and is yielding a passer rating of 95.7, 10th-highest in the NFL. The Giants can’t counter with impressive passing rankings at this point because they’ve turned the ball over so frequently, particularly Manning, who already has thrown a League-high 16 interceptions. But everyone knows this season has been an anomaly for Manning and Co. They are a talented group that can move the ball through the air with efficiency when they’re on. The aforementioned Cruz and Nicks give the Giants a talented starting pair of pass catchers, and second-year player Rueben Randle has come on of late with nine receptions for 171 yards and three scores in the past two weeks. On top of all that, the Vikings are a bit banged up in the secondary right now and need to either A) get healthy in a hurry or B) get backups up to speed in a hurry to contend with a Giants passing game that is itching to get off the ground after a slow start to the season.

5. Big stage, big stars, big games
In the aftermath of the Vikings victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in London, one of the big takeaways was that some of the Vikings biggest stars had big performances on what was a big stage. The Vikings played under the bright lights of Wembley Stadium as part of the NFL’s International Series, and players such as Jared Allen, Greg Jennings and Adrian Peterson were the stars of the show. This week the Vikings are on another big stage – Monday Night Football in New York City. That means it’s time for the Vikings big stars to step up and have big games. Can Allen, Jennings and Peterson do it again? Or will other stars, such as Chad Greenway, Cordarrelle Patterson, Kyle Rudolph and Kevin Williams come out? Only time will tell, but don’t be surprised if the Vikings see several of their stars jump up with big games on the big stage. They’ve already proven capable of doing so, and the team needs them to do it again to get back on the winning track.