The Simple Vikings Blueprint to Beat the Giants

Probably Down
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

In a rematch from three weeks ago, the Minnesota Vikings host the New York Giants in Round 1 of the postseason this Sunday. The teams played at U.S. Bank Stadium on Christmas Eve and will meet in the same building for playoff football.

Last time, the Vikings upended the Giants thanks to a booming 61-yard field goal from Greg Joseph to walk off the blue team.

The Simple Vikings Blueprint to Beat the Giants

Here’s how they can do it again.

Win the Turnover Battle

The Simple Vikings Blueprint
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings were 12-1 (.923) in 2022 when they force at least one turnover. They won 92% of the time when forcing a turnover, while the rest of the NFL won 59% of the time when forcing a turnover.

Let’s get this out in the open, once and for all: the Vikings defense absolutely stinks when it does not force turnovers. The oft-mentioned “bend but don’t break” strategy orchestrated by defensive coordinator Ed Dontaell really means “just get turnovers.”

On the whole, Minnesota’s defense isn’t very good. It’s leaky, allows big plays, and is slow compared to elite NFL defenses. However, it deodorizes all that when it creates fumbles and grabs interceptions from the sky.

The only time in 2022 that the Vikings won while not forcing turnovers was Thanksgiving against the New England Patriots. A Minnesota defense that causes a turnover or two comes close to mathematically mandating a Vikings win.

Avoid 3rd Quarter Hell

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Just like the Vikings defense is woeful without turnovers, Kevin O’Connell’s club has a dreadful tendency to take naps in the 3rd Quarter of games. Nobody knows why. It just happens.

Here are the numbers:

Vikings Offense EPA/Play,
by Quarter in 2022,
NFL Ranking:

1st Quarter = 25th
2nd Quarter = 11th
3rd Quarter = 27th
4th Quarter = 2nd

That’s the offense; this is the defense:

Vikings Defense EPA/Play,
by Quarter in 2022,
NFL Ranking:

1st Quarter = 19th
2nd Quarter = 18th
3rd Quarter = 31st
4th Quarter = 6th

So, folks, your favorite football team is the sixth-worst ballclub in the 3rd Quarter via offense and second-worst on defense right after halftime. If the Vikings could just careen these marks to average for the playoffs, Minnesota can hang with anybody.

Thankfully for the team’s sake, Vikings players have morphed into Gods in the 4th Quarter, which has erased the 3rd Quarter hell.

Kirk’s Gotta Cook

Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

It doesn’t matter where the ball goes — to Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, K.J. Osborn, T.J. Hockenson, or Cousins’ grandmother — he cannot have a “Bad Kirk” game. Period.

Cousins is responsible for about 1 or 1.5 lousy games per season. It’s science by now. In 2022, he got that naughty habit out of the way early against the Philadelphia Eagles. Cousins has come on strong in December — aside from Week 17 at the Green Bay Packers — a welcome change of pace, as he usually is at his hottest in October and November.

The Vikings entire little improbable playoff run is dependent on Cousins. The team’s defense isn’t good enough to create a Super Bowl push. Cousins must be elite throughout the next 1-4 games, and it starts Sunday.

If Cousins is “off,” it will spell doom for the team and his future with the Vikings.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).