Editor’s Note: I am writing this on Monday (during over-reaction Monday), which might not be the best time to do so. After games like the last one, I should probably wait a day—but I didn’t, so you should, instead, take it with a grain of saltiness.
The 2-2 Vikings looked like a bad team on Sunday afternoon in Chicago. But the schedule doesn’t stop for such things. The Purple has to tee it up again, hit the road and head to New York for a game with Pat Shurmur and the Giants, a team that suddenly has the same record as the Vikings do.
The Vikings are in a bit of turmoil after the loss to the Bears (while the Giants are ascending despite the loss of their best player a couple wins ago—running back Saquon Barkley). Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins is coming off a second sub-par performance (one in each of the team’s two losses this season) and has a good portion of the fan base looking for his head. Even one of his favorite targets, wide receiver Adam Thielen, had some pointed words about the lack of a passing game, which he since cleaned up on Monday morning:
“My comments after the game were in a very broad sense,” Thielen told the Star Tribune on Monday. “Any team is going to tell you, you can’t be one dimensional. That’s not a shot at anyone, at coaches, players, nobody. That’s just being real and saying you can’t just be a run team. . . have to do both well.”
He speaks the truth, at this point. Though head coach Mike Zimmer wants a better rushing game (and, until Sunday, he got it), he too wants balance between the run and the pass. You really can’t win without it. Have the Vikings overcorrected in the first quarter of the season? Perhaps they did, and the Bears saw how to defeat them—sell out for the running game and then harass Cousins when he tries to win the game.
We saw it, we know it and we suspect the Vikings coaching staff knows it also. Therefore, I am expecting a more balanced attack when the Vikings head to the Meadowlands to battle the G-Men on Sunday. And they will need it. This game (that looked during the preseason like one of the games the Vikings should win on the road) suddenly looks a lot tougher. It is hard to win in the NFL when you are doubting everything you thought about yourself.
The Giants have helped themselves in recent weeks. Head coach Shurmur finally pulled the trigger on benching quarterback Eli Manning for rookie Daniel Jones, who is 2-0 since taking over for the aging two-time Super Bowl QB. Thankfully, Jones gives the Vikings some of his tape to look at, since the Vikings had trouble playing against a relatively unknown backup on Sunday when Mitch Trubisky went down with a game-ending injury on the sixth play and Chase Daniels took over led the Bears to victory.
In his two games, Daniels has definitely contributed to his team’s wins. In the two games, he has thrown a 36 and 31 passes, respectively, completing 23 each time for an average of 280.5 yards. He has three TD passes compared to two interceptions. And with his stud running back Barkley going down in the first game, the passing game has become more important. In fact, he is inspiring headlines like this from ESPN: “Daniel Jones brings new energy, hope to New York Giants.”
In addition, Daniels will have Golden Tate return to the lineup this week (after a four-game suspension for taking banned substances), and Tate will be anxious to contribute. You can expect to see a lot of footballs in the air despite Wayne Gallman filling in very well for Barkley (he had a rushing and receiving score this past weekend against Washington).
The Giants defense, on the other hand, is where the Vikings will need to take advantage. The Giants are ranked 23rd in the league in yards allowed with 389.3 per game and have given up 24.3 points per game, which is ranked 20th. That might give the Purple fan base hope (after what they watched from the Vikings offense), but the G-Men are not the Monsters of the Midway that they faced on Sunday.
Ranked against all the defenses of the NFL, the Giants are 19th against the run and 24th against the pass. You can look at as the Vikings’ offensive strength will be pit against the Giants’ defensive strength. But I believe it says the Vikings should be (better be) able to make headway with both aspects of their offense. We should see the return of a run game leading the way for the passing game and perhaps Cousins getting some time to see and hit his disgruntled receivers.
One thing we know about this league, it is week to week (Sunday, the Tampa Bay Bucs beat the defending NFC champion Los Angeles Rams and the Buffalo Bills, although undefeated coming in, gave the New England Patriots everything they could handle), so the Vikings have a chance to redeem themselves this week, get above .500 and recapture a good feeling about themselves. They do need a win desperately and a road win even more, because if they don’t do it by getting after a rookie quarterback in his third game and scoring points against a middling defense, Katie bar the door for the rest of the season.
Minnesota—24, New York Giants—13