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2022 NFC Wild-Card Preview: New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings

(Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

2022 NFC Wild-Card Preview: New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings

In the fourth game of our NFL wild-card weekend, the No. 3-seeded Minnesota Vikings will host the No. 6-seed New York Giants in one of two NFC matchups on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. ET. Minnesota and New York met not too long ago on Christmas Eve in their only regular season bout, when Minnesota bested the G-Men 27-24, courtesy of a last-second 61-yard field goal from Vikings kicker Greg Joseph.

Let’s dive into a few reasons why each team could win plus my prediction below!

Why the Vikings will win:

1. #LetJustinJeffersonCook™

The Minnesota Vikings have the best player in this game, and his name is Justin Jefferson. He broke team-record-after-team-record and led the NFL in receptions (128) and yards (1809) — just shy of breaking Calvin Johnson’s single-season record in receiving yards — with eight touchdowns.

The near-unprecedented start to the 23-year-old’s career is perhaps the biggest reason behind the Vikings’ success this season. Over the last two seasons, he’s had 17 100-yard performances — Minnesota is 14-3 in those games, including a 12-catch, 134-yard, one touchdown performance against the Giants on Christmas Eve.

If Kirk Cousins can continuously feed Jefferson the pigskin, it’s hard not to see Minnesota putting plenty of points up on the board and, thus, winning the game.

2. They know how to win (close) games

Every time you look up at the scoreboard, the Vikings are either losing by a lot or playing a one-score game. No inbetween. They were a remarkable 11-0 in one-score games this season. The Giants are also a respectable 8-3-1 in such games, too. As frustrating as it might be for their fan bases, at times, it’s hard to count either team out until the clock hits 0:00. Good teams find ways to win games, not lose them. And Minnesota has found plenty of ways to squeak out victories this season — at least at a higher rate than their counterpart — even if some of them were lucky.

3. If it can have more success in the pass rush?

Minnesota’s pass rush has waxed and waned throughout the year, though they had success against the Giants during their previous matchup. Danielle Hunter had a game-high five pressures — including a strip-sack — while Za’Darius Smith had three more, per Pro Football Reference. Dalvin Tomlinson had his fair share of success up the middle as well. But if Minnesota is able to 1.) Keep Daniel Jones in the pocket and 2.) Get home and possibly force a turnover or two (bad pass, strip sack, etc.), that could shift any momentum the Giants offense will inevitably build against a bad Vikings defense.

Why the Giants will win:

Aggressive pass-rush versus beat up offensive line

The Minnesota Vikings offensive line is beat up, missing their starting right tackle Brian O’Neill and center Garrett Bradbury. The Giants have a good pass rush — spearheaded by Dexter Lawrence and Kayvon Thibodeaux. And the G-Men have Wink Martindale — arguably the most aggressive defensive coordinator across the NFL (Giants lead the NFL in blitz rate) — calling the shots on the other side.

Cousins isn’t unfamiliar playing with compromised offensive lines, but those usually haven’t rendered the best results for him. Even though it’ll force New York’s secondary to man-up on Jefferson, if the Giants can get Minnesota in long down-and-distance situations, Martindale will bring rushers from all angles to make life difficult for Minnesota’s signal caller.

Reinforcements, baby!

The Giants are expected to return two of the most important parts of their secondary in cornerback Adoree’ Jackson (knee) and Xavier McKinney. The injury bug hasn’t been too kind to the Giants this season, so getting reinforcements back in the secondary against Jefferson, Adam Thielen, K.J. Osborn and T.J. Hockenson is just what the doctor ordered.

They already know what it takes to potentially beat Minnesota:

The Minnesota Vikings have the worst defense of any team in the playoff field. They’re vulnerable. Minnesota needed a heroic 61-yard field goal to beat the Giants at home in Week 16 to win 27-24 and New York left points off the board.

Jones is playing some of the best football is career and will be able to take advantage of a porous Minnesota back-seven with his arm and legs. He threw for a season-high 334 yards against the Vikings, and they’ve allowed eight 300-yard passers this season (four have thrown for multiple touchdowns).

If New York can get ahead, they possess one of the league’s most dynamic running backs in Saquon Barkley, who’s deadly in open space.

Prediction:

It’s hard to trust a professional sports team from Minnesota against one from New York in an important game. But jokes aside, these two teams are pretty evenly matched that played a very even regular season matchup. The Giants are the better all-around team, but I’m anticipating another tight affair between the two squads. This should be a winnable game for both teams and could very well come down to the final snap, but I’m going to take the surging Giants over the famously-cursed-in-the-playoffs Vikings.

Final prediction: Giants 24, Vikings 23

***

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