Vikings vs. Giants: Breaking Down Minnesota's Game Plan

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Vikings vs. Giants: Breaking Down Minnesota's Game Plan
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
The last time the Vikings and Giants played in 2010, there was a different quarterback controversy.

Before the beginning of the season, the game between the Minnesota Vikings and the New York Giants looked to be a big game for both teams—it still is, but for an entirely different reason. Unfortunately, with a combined 1-10 record, only the Tampa Bay (0-5) and Atlanta (1-4) games come close for the most feeble game of the weekend.

The Vikings-Giants matchup is the farthest end of the spectrum for this week's games with Denver (6-0) at Indianapolis (4-2) making up the other end.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Peyton Manning has the Broncos undefeated through six games.

This is not where either of these teams were expected to be after last season. Last season following Week 7, both teams were 5-2 with aspirations of making the playoffs. The Vikings were able to complete that goal with a 10-6 record and a wild-card berth, but the Giants fell one game short with a 9-7 record. 

This year, both teams were supposed to build on the success of 2012, instead Leslie Frazier and Tom Coughlin find themselves in danger of not making it through the season. Coughlin has the edge over Frazier with two Super Bowl victories in his 10 seasons in New York. 

This week looks a lot like the Steelers game for the Vikings. 

Comparing the Rankings of the Giants and the Steelers
Giants - Week 7 Steelers - Week 4
Run Defense 27th 22nd
Pass Defense 20th 3rd
Run Offense 30th 31st
Pass Offense 9th 10th

Stat Milk

First, the Vikings will be playing in a different world—all right, as different from Minnesota as you can get heading east without leaving the country. Second, they face an offense that is much better at passing the ball than running it. Despite their weakness against the passing game, the Vikings did well, or at least well enough, against Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers to win the game. Third, the Giants, like the Steelers, come into their game against the Vikings without a victory. 

The only difference is that New York's pass defense is nowhere near as good as the Pittsburgh's. Perhaps the Vikings will be able to have a balanced attack on Monday night. 

 

When the Vikings Have the Ball... 

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
It was pointed out by Fox analyst Brian Billick that Bill Musgrave has a very small card of plays on the sideline.

On Wednesday, Frazier announced that Josh Freeman will start against the Giants on Monday. Obviously, they either gave Freeman a crash course on the Vikings offense and he was able to cram a lot of information in a short time, or Minnesota's offensive playbook is so small that it was an easy study for him.  

 

Give Adrian Peterson the Football—a Lot

Of course, the best game plan remains pretty much the same as it's been all season—give Adrian Peterson the ball. It's no coincidence that the Vikings' only win happens to be the only game Peterson rushed for more than 100 yards—140 to be exact. 

Last week against the Panthers, Peterson had his best average of the season when he gained 62 yards on 10 carries. The problem was he didn't get enough carries to make a difference in the game.

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport

Over the past two seasons, Peterson has not only led the Vikings in touchdowns, he also had the longest play from scrimmage. This season, he has touchdown runs of 60 and 78 yards.

Minnesota Vikings: Players' Longest Gain of the Season
Player Longest Gain
Adrian Peterson 78-yard run
Greg Jennings 70-yard reception
Jerome Simpson 51-yard reception
Cordarrelle Patterson 37-yard reception
Kyle Rudolph 23-yard reception
Jarius Wright 21-yard reception
Joe Webb 15-yard reception

Pro Football Reference

 

Someone Needs to Take Percy Harvin's Place

The past four seasons, the Minnesota Vikings used Percy Harvin in a number of different ways to provide a wrinkle to the offense. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave lined up Harvin just about anywhere on the field—out wide, in the slot and in the backfield. 

This season, the Vikings offense has not been as creative. Last month, the Star Tribune reported that Frazier intended to expand rookie Cordarrelle Patterson's role on the team. So far this season, Patterson has not had more than two receptions in a game. He's only ran the ball once. 

His biggest game came in Week 3 when he was targeted four times, making two catches for 49 yards. 

Last year at Tennessee, Patterson led the Volunteers with 1,086 yards from scrimmage. If only the Vikings would turn him loose and use him more like they did Harvin, perhaps it would open up the offense more. 

 

Take Advantage of Freeman's Strong Arm

According to the USA Today, one of the attributes the Vikings coveted in Freeman was his strong arm. If that's the case, it doesn't take a lot of study to throw the deep pass.

Jerome Simpson is supposed to be the downfield threat the Vikings have been missing since the first departure of Randy Moss. The problem has been that Christian Ponder could not get the ball deep enough to take advantage of Simpson's speed.

This also works well with the previous key. The Vikings should use the speed of Patterson and Simpson along with Freeman's strong arm to stretch the field.

It might be considered a high-risk, high-reward approach, but the Vikings have arrived at the place where they have nothing to lose. 

 

When the Giants Have the Ball...

This could just be the right combination to favor the Vikings. 

 

Pick on Eli Manning

With no running game, the Giants rely on Eli Manning's arm to move the team. The problem is that Manning leads the NFL with 15 interceptions, and he is on pace to exceed the 25 he threw in 2010 when he led the NFL.

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport
The Vikings' defense got three interceptions in the Browns' game.

The Vikings have not been very good against the pass this season, but they have been better at getting interceptions. With seven interceptions through five games, the defense is on pace to have the most since 2006 when it grabbed 21 picks.

One concern is that safety Harrison Smith, who is battling turf toe, may not be able to play on Monday. Along with linebackers Erin Henderson and Chad Greenway, he leads the team with two interceptions.

 

Put the Heat on Manning

Last season, the New York Giants gave up 20 sacks. So far this season, Manning has been sacked 16 times in six games. Along with his 15 interceptions, Manning also has two fumbles.

Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

If the Vikings' front four can get to Manning, it will help to protect the porous defensive secondary. It will also allow the linebackers to drop back in coverage, improving the chances of getting an interception—especially since not one cornerback has an interception.   

 

Make a Stop on Third or Fourth Down

The Vikings defense is ranked 31st in the NFL, allowing opponents to convert 33 of 67 third downs. Only the Atlanta Falcons have been worse.

Last week, the Panthers converted seven of 12 third downs and were perfect on two fourth-down plays. In Week 3, the Cleveland Browns were also perfect on converting two fourth downs—one on a fake punt and another on a fake field goal for a touchdown.

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The Vikings defense needs to come up with a big play that gets the unit off the field and gives the ball back to the offense. It will help to swing the time of possession in the favor of the Vikings, something that has only happened once this season.

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