There’s a Blueprint to Beat the Giants

Vikings Successfully
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The Vikings playoffs will start on Sunday afternoon when the purple team hosts the Giants in U.S. Bank Stadium. It is a much-anticipated matchup in both fan bases. Minnesota will have its first home game in the postseason since 2018, when Stefon Diggs sent the Saints home with a loss, while the Giants will be featured in the first playoff game since 2016.

The Vikings managed to win 13 games in 2022. Most impressive is the 11-0 record in one-score games. Vikings fans are used to total chaos within games. Comeback wins and blown leads are a weekly thing for fans of the purple team.

There’s a Blueprint to Beat the Giants

Ed Donatell’s defense allowed Daniel Jones and his Giants’ offense to march down the field 75 yards in just 59 seconds, including a two-point conversion to tie the game in Minnesota on Christmas Eve. The Vikings stroke back with a drive that concluded in a 61-yard field goal from kicker Greg Joseph. The franchise-long kick ended the game.

A big key for the win in the Week 16 game was T.J. Hockenson. The Vikings traded for the tight end on the final day before the trade deadline arrived, and he has immediately been a huge factor for his new team in the passing game. He recorded a new franchise high for tight ends, 13 receptions, against the Giants and those catches led to 109 yards and two scores. Hockenson complemented Justin Jefferson in the passing game. The star receiver finished the game with 12 catches for 133 yards and a touchdown.

Blueprint to Beat the
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One Vikings weapon, Dalvin Cook, had an average game. The veteran running back recorded 64 yards on 14 carries, which equals an average of 4.6 yards per carry. However, the Giants have a defense that should allow Cook to have a field day in the wild-card round.

The defense coordinated by Don “Wink” Martindale allowed 2,019 rushing yards, only to running backs, excluding runs by other players like quarterbacks and wide receivers. That number is the fourth highest in the NFL. For comparison purposes, the Vikings allowed 1,514 such yards, the 12th-fewest in the league.

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The difference in rushing attempts against was only five, so the Giants also have a problem with their efficiency, not only with the total numbers. The average yardage gained per rush by running backs against the Giants is 5.24, an atrocious number — Minnesota is only allowing 3.98.

Total statistics can sometimes be misleading, but advanced statistics paint the same picture in this case. Martindale’s defense is the third worst in the NFL in Rush EPA/play, only slightly better than the worst. Minnesota, meanwhile, is 15th.

Their DVOA is even worse, as the Giants are the worst running defense in the league in that metric. The Vikings are 19th.

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It’s hard to say why the problem exists. The first thing to evaluate with bad running defenses is always the defensive tackles. However, the Giants employ Dexter Lawrence, one of the best in the business. He is a force inside, was just named to the Pro Bowl, and the NFL Players Association named him to their All-Pro team.

PFF graded him as the best overall interior defensive lineman and the best against the run. His teammate Leonard Williams is the 13th-best interior lineman. It’s fair to say that the defensive tackles are not the problem.

The two starting linebackers rank outside of the top 50 run-defending linebackers. Jaylon Smith, the former Cowboy, turned into a journeyman and struggled to find a team just a year ago. Undersized rookie linebacker Micah McFadden is starting next to him and is having the usual rookie struggles. The Vikings should try to take advantage of the lousy running defense. It could be a big reason for a potential Vikings victory.

Is Dalvin Cook No Longer Elite?
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At the very least, it is a great opportunity for the Vikings, but it is unclear if the purple team can punish their opponent’s weakness. Only the Los Angeles Chargers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a lower run percentage in the season. In addition to that, running back Dalvin Cook is no longer an elite runner. Most advanced stats have him near the bottom of the league in their respective categories.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt