Two of last season's NFC playoff participants that have gotten off to disappointing seasons conclude the NFL's Week 7 action when the Minnesota Vikings face the New York Giants tonight at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. How quickly things can change in the NFL. Playoff teams just a year ago, the Vikings and Giants have begun 2013 with a combined 1-10 and find themselves solidly in the basement of their respective divisions. Poor quarterback play, ridiculous amounts of turnovers and several injuries have ravaged what were supposed to be promising seasons.
3 Things to Watch
Premier Pass Rushers
The names of these two defenses have terrified quarterbacks in seasons past. That not has quite been the case to start the 2013 campaign. For the Giants, Jason Pierre-Paul has one sack on the season, Justin Tuck has half a sack, while Vikings All-Pro Jared Allen only has three sacks. Allen's numbers aren't poor, but aren't the type of top-flight numbers we're used to seeing from him. It's also clear that Tuck and Pierre-Paul aren't the same type of players they've been in the past. Pierre-Paul got a pass on a poor 2012 due to a nagging back injury and was expected to be back to his old ways this year. Not so far. The rest of the Giants' defensive line including Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka and Cullen Jenkins have all played poorly this season. Part of the problem is a suspect secondary, but the defensive front still is struggling to produce pressure. It will be interesting to see how much pressure each defense tries to bring against a pair of quarterbacks that have struggled in the face of oncoming defenders this season.
Which RB will have the bigger impact?
Brandon Jacobs gave the Giants a huge boost last week. However, he reportedly suffered a setback Saturday with his hamstring injury. New York signed Peyton Hillis, who is expected to see a bulk of action tonight. It will be interesting to see whether the potentially short-handed Giants look to run against Minnesota and a rush defense that is No. 18 in the NFL and allowing 110 yards per game, or focus its efforts on attacking a pass defense that has fared worse. The Vikings are 29th in the league in that department, allowing 308 yards passing per game. The running back position is never one of weakness for the Minnesota, as it has reigning league MVP Adrian Peterson. Peterson ranks second in the NFL with more than 95 yards rushing per game and five touchdowns. He isn't having the type of season he had in 2012, as he trailed leading rusher LeSean McCoy by 147 yards entering Week 7, and has fumbled three times. Don't expect things to be easy for Peterson as the Giants' rushing defense has performed admirably over the last three games. In consecutive weeks, the Giants have held Jamaal Charles to 65 yards rushing, McCoy to 46 yards and Matt Forte to 67 yards on the ground.
Things have been bad at football's most important position for these teams. The Vikings have had a revolving door at the position, seeing Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel, and now Josh Freeman take the reins of the offense. Ponder struggled, throwing two touchdowns to five interceptions, while Cassel didn't impress in last week's two-interception, blowout 35-10 loss to the Panthers. Enter Freeman, who will try to resurrect his career after a falling out in Tampa Bay following his 45 percent completion rate and just a 59.3 quarterback rating in three games. Freeman needs to protect the ball as the Vikings are fourth in the NFL with 12 giveaways. The Giants have their starting quarterback solidly in place; however, the two-time Super Bowl MVP has struggled mightily. Eli Manning has thrown 16 interceptions, with four games of three or more picks. He is the main reason why the Giants lead the NFL with 23 turnovers and are an NFL-worst -16 in turnover differential. He looks to turn his season around, facing one of the league's worst defense as the Vikings rank second to last in total yards allowed. Whichever quarterback can play the cleanest, most mistake-free game will likely see his team come out on top.
Key Player for Minnesota: Kyle Rudolph, TE
Every young quarterback loves a big target and a safety valve. Freeman will look for the 6-6 touchdown machine early and often. Giants linebackers struggle in coverage and Rudolph will create huge matchup problems.
Key Player for New York: Victor Cruz, WR
The Vikings secondary has been bruised and battered throughout the season. Wide receivers like Josh Gordon, Brandon Marshall and Antonio Brown have all torched Minnesota. In fact, the Vikings have allowed a 100-yard receiver in every game this season.
This will be an ugly game, but I like the Giants here. They simply have two much firepower on the outside for Minnesota to handle. The Vikings will win this game if they can keep the ball in Peterson's hands, wear down the New York defense and keep new starting quarterback Josh Freeman from facing 3rd-and-long situations. I like the Giants to put up a bunch of points on a Vikings defense that hasn't held a team under 30 this season. The Giants will get a couple of big turnovers and get their first win of the season.
New York 37, Minnesota 29