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4 Vikings vs. Giants Wild Card Storylines: Rematch, QBs Facing Pressure & Opportunity at Home

EAGAN, Minn. — When the Vikings hosted the Giants on Dec. 24, there was a good chance it could become a postseason rematch.

That someday is Sunday.

Minnesota (13-4) finished its season as the No. 3 seed in the NFC Playoffs and will host New York Giants (9-7-1), which secured the No. 6 spot, at 3:30 p.m. (CT) Sunday on FOX.

This will mark the first time in 31 postseason appearances for Minnesota to open a playoff campaign against the team it hosted in its previous home game.

The Vikings prevailed 27-24 on a 61-yard field goal by Greg Joseph that capped a flurry of 18 points in the game's final three minutes.

After a punt blocked by recently appointed captain Josh Metellus, the Vikings quickly scored on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins to Justin Jefferson for a 24-16 lead with 3:00 remaining.

New York answered by driving 75 yards on seven plays in just 59 seconds. Saquon Barkley burst through the line of scrimmage on fourth-and-2 for a 27-yard touchdown.

Daniel Jones completed a 2-point conversion pass to Daniel Bellinger to tie the game at 24.

Minnesota responded by moving the ball 33 yards on eight plays to set up Joseph's franchise-record kick from the Norseman's braid, which was custom painted for the Winter Whiteout initiative.

All six playoff games this weekend involve rematches between teams that met at least once in the regular season. That's the most such games in a single postseason round in NFL history and the fifth overall instance since 1990 that all teams in the Wild Card Round are rematching with a regular-season foe.

Here is a matchup to watch, along with four storylines.

Matchup to watch: Quarterbacks vs. pressure

According to Next Gen Stats, the Giants pressured Cousins 19 times in the Week 16 game, recording their most in a game this season.

Cousins withstood 4.0 sacks and 11 quarterback hits. He finished 34-of-48 passing with 299 yards, three touchdowns and a passer rating of 107.9.

The Vikings defense countered by recording 3.0 sacks and 11 quarterback hits on Jones, who completed 30 of 42 passes for 334 yards with one touchdown and an interception. His passer rating capped at 92.8.

The Giants led the NFL in blitz rate (44.7) and in QB pressures (95) while blitzing.

The Vikings generally preferred to rush with four but did sprinkle in more blitzes as the season progressed.

Danielle Hunter recorded seven tackles, 2.0 sacks, four quarterback hits and forced a fumble (recovered by New York) during a sack of Jones.

He'll be joined by Za'Darius Smith, who said Wednesday that a knee contusion he played through for the second half of the season is doing much better.

They'll try to pressure Jones, who also has an ability to run. Jones ranked second on the team with 708 rushing yards and seven scores on 120 rushes.

1. Home sweet home

Cousins is primed to make his fourth postseason start and third with Minnesota, but this will be his first playoff contest at U.S. Bank Stadium.

"Excited to be hosting a home playoff game. We expect it to be a great atmosphere on Sunday afternoon, and we're playing a great football team as is expected in the playoffs," Cousins said. "It will be a great challenge for us, so you start your paces like normal on a Sunday-to-Sunday rhythm now with Wednesday. Just take it one day at a time right now and build the foundation for the week today. Looking forward to what Sunday is going to bring, but it really does feel like a one week, one game season. If ever there was a time to just focus on one day at time, focus on one game at a time, the playoffs are that time, so looking forward to that challenge."

The Vikings went 8-1 in home games in 2022, and Cousins' eight victories as a starter were the most in home games by any QB.

According to NFL Media Research, Cousins is one of six QBs all-time to have 8+ wins, 20+ total touchdowns and fewer than five interceptions in a season.

The Vikings averaged 27.0 points per game at home and 22.6 in road games.

Cousins threw 18 touchdowns to four interceptions on the way to a passer rating of 99.6 at U.S. Bank Stadium. He threw 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in road games for a passer rating of 84.1.

2. Encore and entry game for Jefferson & Hockenson

The last time the teams met, Jefferson posted 133 yards and a touchdown on 12 catches, and T.J. Hockenson set a career high with 13 catches. He totaled 109 yards and two scores, including one for the ages.

What will that tandem do for an encore as each makes his postseason debut?

Will the Giants do things to limit opportunities to the players who were each targeted 16 times?

If New York does try to take away Jefferson, will the Vikings have the corresponding moves at the ready?

3. Stopping Saquon remains important

The Vikings plugged up the running lanes for Saquon Barkley much like Manhattan traffic the last time — until they didn't.

Barkley's 27-yard touchdown on his last touch of the game gave him 84 yards on 14 carries (6.0 per run).

Plug that one gap, and the Vikings would have limited the game-changer to 57 on 13 (a tolerable average of 4.4).

Minnesota allowed 123.1 rushing yards per game this season, which ranked 20th, despite only allowing one player (Aaron Jones in Week 17) to rush for more than 100 in a game.

4. All-in mindset, but trying to stay relaxed

The Vikings are well aware of the finality that comes along with playing in a postseason game, whether it will be their first ever or their first here for players like Za'Darius Smith, Chandon Sullivan, Harrison Phillips and Jordan Hicks.

Each of those players brought deep postseason experience with other teams to Minnesota when they signed as free agents.

It also will be important for the Vikings to not add to the pressure, but to instead play freely.

A focused week of preparation is important, but it's also OK to remember that football is supposed to be fun.