The Vikings host the New York Giants on Saturday and are four-point favorites as they continue to play for the best possible playoff seed. The over/under is 48 points in a contest between two NFC playoff teams.
Who Cares About Win Probability?
I certainly do not, but the Vikings do have a 65.4% chance to win on Saturday according to sportsbettingdime.com. I bring up win probability only because I recommend that everyone watch how their win probability changed throughout their epic comeback last week against the Colts.
I don’t particularly like win probability as a stat because, to me, it is almost an over-analysis. However, I like quantifying the wild occurrences in sports. Most recently, it was a fun exercise to go back and watch how the Vikings had no chance to come back and beat the Colts, and yet, they did just that. Knowing how low their win probabilities were throughout the game did a nice job of illustrating just how improbable and exciting their victory was. Now, it is time to pause our reveling in last week’s comeback, and look to the Giants. Here are some key matchups for Saturday’s holiday showdown.
Brian Daboll Versus Kevin O’Connell
Two first-year head coaches will square off on opposite sidelines in this one, and it will be a fun game to watch. Both Vikings and Giants fans have to be pleased with their off-season hires, as both have envigorated their franchises and have found immediate success.
I am looking closely this week at how both of these coaches deal with momentum-shifting situations. I think fourth-down conversions, creative red zone play calls, and time management will be huge in this game.
The Vikings Versus Saquon Barkley
The New York Giants do not necessarily have an electric offense, but Barkley is one of the elite offensive playmakers in the league. In the Giants’ eight wins this season, he has rushed for well over 100 yards in four of those games. In the other four games, his combined rushing and receiving yards are right around the century mark.
To state the obvious, then, the Vikings need to find a way to limit Saquon Barkley. The Vikings’ rush defense was mediocre last week against the Indianapolis Colts. They gave up a staggering 171 yards on the ground, but upon closer examination, they held the Colts to less than four yards per carry. That being said, Saquon Barkley is a much more intimidating back than either Zack Moss or Deon Jackson.
The Turnover Battle
Both the Vikings and Giants are plus four in turnover differential this season, and it remains one of the biggest reasons why teams win and lose games. Last week, the Vikings fell so far behind in part due to turnovers. The early blocked punt and Dalvin Cook’s fumble allowed the Colts to jump out to a big lead.
For the Giants, they benefitted from two Taylor Heinicke fumbles which helped swing the game in their favor. One of those came on this play by rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux.
This play alone was a full possession swing in the Giants’ favor, and they only won the game by one possession. Suffice it to say, the Vikings need to protect the ball and avoid significant miscues. I know this is an obvious goal in any game, but it’s much more important against the Giants, who are better than the Colts.
Dalvin Cook Versus The Giants’ Rush Defense
The Giants rank 30th in rushing yards allowed per game this year, and that has to have this Vikings’ offense salivating. Cook was efficient last week against the Colts, running for 95 yards on 17 carries. This is an even better stat line when you think of how much passing the Vikings had to do to get back into the game.
The Vikings should be able to exploit this Giants’ rush defense early on, and it should lead to early points and hopefully a sizeable lead. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind seeing more sets with C.J. Ham leading the way for Dalvin this time. I know I say this every week, but establishing the running game should be a priority on Christmas Eve.
Who Will Be Santa’s Helper On Saturday?
This was my fun (or lame) way to highlight an X-factor for Saturday’s matchup. Last week I went with my guy D.J. Wonnum on defense, and while he only played on 48% of the defensive snaps, he was a factor on some plays and combined for three tackles.
This week, I will look on the offensive side of the ball. Last week, K.J. Osborn tore it up for the Vikes, and if I was in charge of handing out game balls I would have given it to him. But it was not a surprise to me, as K.J. is always a player who is ready for his opportunity. This Saturday I want to see Jalen Reagor do something positive. Last week he was fully to blame for one of Kirk’s interceptions, and potentially partially to blame for the other. I’m sure it’s hard to make an impact when playing time is limited, but I still want to see him ready to seize the opportunities he does get.
All I Want For Christmas Is The Two Seed
Obviously, I would prefer the one seed, but the Vikings need a lot of help from Philadelphia to get there, so I’ll try to stay more realistic. I believe this team would benefit greatly from playing primarily at home in the playoffs, so I want to make sure we do everything we can to lock up the two-seed.
I know a lot can change and a lot can happen in the playoffs, but if we are able to win in Wild Card weekend, we would then most likely host the San Francisco 49ers. If we were to fall to the three seed, we would have to (most likely) play them on the road. Again, this is assuming a lot, but because we have the luxury of having a playoff berth locked up, we get to speculate even further down the road. Of course, once the post-season begins, it is one game at a time!
To say I’m excited for Saturday’s game would be an understatement. I love that we are playing on Christmas Eve, and during a season in which we are a contender. I also love that the Vikings will be going for a whiteout.
I know a few people going to the game, and they are getting their attire ready. I think it will be an awesome spectacle to witness while enjoying the holidays with my family.
Vikings’ center Garrett Bradbury will miss his third consecutive game, but only linebacker Eric Kendricks and cornerback Cam Dantzler, were given questionable tags. Coach O’Connell said that Kendricks is progressing well and practiced in full, while Dantzler was limited. All things considered, the Vikings seem to still be in good shape in regards to key injuries.
For the New York Giants, defensive back Adoree’ Jackson and offensive lineman Shane Lemieux have been ruled out. The other players on the report did not receive any designations and are expected to play.
This is about as calm as I have been heading into a Vikings game. While I wouldn’t go as far as saying this game doesn’t matter, I feel like the Vikings have proven themselves as a playoff team, and I can watch with confidence.
After last week’s comeback, I do think the Vikings will have a more decisive win, so I am going to allow myself to predict them to win, yet again. I’ll take the Vikes to win 24-13. I think Saquon Barkley will give us some fits, and Daniel Jones will make a play or two, but the better team will take this game. I look for our defense to build off of last week’s improvement, and the usual contributors on offense will do enough against a Giants’ defense that I think will play decently.
Regardless of the holidays you celebrate, I wish you all the best during this time of the year, and I hope that you are ability to slow down and enjoy some family time. We appreciate anyone who interacts with us here at Stadium Rant, and look forward to continuing to put out quality sports content. Enjoy your Week 16, and SKOL!