Two cellar dwellers will square off on Monday night in a contest schedule-makers retrospectively wish they could have back. The New York Giants, in search of their first victory of the season, play host to an equally inept outfit in the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football.
Any success in the win-loss column for Big Blue is predicated on the offense carrying the team. This especially holds true against Minnesota, which ranks 31st in total defense.
Several elusive components must come together in order for New York to regain respectability on national television.
A comedy of errors have plagued quarterback Eli Manning and his offense thus far in 2013. In just six weeks of what can only be described as wretched football, the Giants have already eclipsed their turnover output from 2012.
An NFL-high 23 turnovers has most notably been New York's downfall this season. The overall disregard for attention to detail will need to be rectified this week against Minnesota. With plenty of opportunities to make plays against a struggling defense, here are some things to expect from Eli Manning and New York's offense in Week 7:
Establish the Run
For the first time in 2013 the Giants found success running the football against the opposition last week. Brandon Jacobs rushed for over 100 yards against a depleted Chicago Bears defensive line in a vintage performance.
The combination of a commitment to running the football and a sliver of competency when doing so is crucial for New York's offense.
In the most rudimentary sense, Jacobs' presence last Thursday set up some manageable third down situations for Big Blue. The Giants were a staggering 7-of-11 on third downs against Chicago.
An established ground game also allows offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride to layer his play-calling and keep defenses on their heels. The Giants' offensive coordinator, who quite justifiably is taking heat from fans, will find his job much easier on Monday night if Jacobs is able to be productive.
The greatest beneficiary of an established ground game is Eli Manning.
With 141 consecutive regular season starts, the Giants' signal caller ranks third all time at the quarterback position. When the Giants struggle to consistently run the ball, Manning is often swarmed by aggressive pass-rushers, putting his sterling consecutive starts streak in jeopardy.
An Unlikely Pair Working Together
David Diehl and Justin Pugh were expected to battle for the starting right tackle spot heading into the 2013 season. Injuries have now created an unlikely pairing for New York along the right side of the offensive line.
Diehl and Pugh each had their moments against the Bears in Week 6.
Has the offensive line improved with the insertion of Diehl next to Pugh?
A heightened sense of chemistry and trust between two players at exact opposite ends of their careers could turn a weakness into a strength for Big Blue.
Pugh has rapidly developed into a solid right tackle, while Diehl's experience and intensity from the right guard spot have helped stabilize the offensive line.
Pugh and Diehl will face off with Brian Robison and Kevin Williams, respectively. The Vikings' pair has a pedestrian 17 combined tackles between them this season. Look for Pugh and Diehl to continue finding success on Monday Night Football as New York attempts to establish a physically imposing style in the trenches.
Manning Utilizing All Weapons
Although historically dreadful against Minnesota, Eli Manning will have plenty of chances to right the ship in Week 7. His career 1-4 record against the NFC North's last-place team should be improved upon when you consider the anemic state of Minnesota's secondary.
While all signs point to New York continuing its slide throughout 2013, Manning's ability to lead New York out of the doldrums is imperative.
It's one thing to spearhead a contending team each year—it's a whole other story trying to lead a group mired in a dreadful slump.
The Giants could not have picked a better team to oppose Manning this week. Expect No. 10 to have his best game of the season and further expose a weak opposition.
Find Consistency on the Outside
Two players operating outside the hash marks will need to improve if New York wants to be successful offensively. Hakeem Nicks and Rueben Randle are tremendously gifted athletes, but each have struggled to find a consistent rapport with their quarterback.
By now the Giants know what they are getting from their Pro Bowl slot receiver Victor Cruz. As reliable as Cruz has been through six weeks, Randle and Nicks have been frustratingly inconsistent.
In his first five pass attempts against Chicago, Eli Manning threw two interceptions intended for Randle. Each of these debilitating turnovers were the result of Randle's inability to run proper routes.
The most maddening aspect of Randle's follies is the fact that he has shown the ability to takeover games when called upon.
A silver lining can be found in Randle's case, however, because of his resemblance to Mario Manningham. The former-Giant experienced similar struggles with being on the same page with Manning during the infancy of his career. Randle will get an opportunity to show he can improve his route running and decision making against Vikings' neophyte Xavier Rhodes.
Hakeem Nicks' struggles and murky contract situation landed him on the trading block this fall.
When on point Nicks is a top-flight receiver, but his inability to play well on a weekly basis is a serious cause for concern. A few months ago it was impossible to conceive a Giants' offense without the combination of Cruz and Nicks causing mismatches for opposing defenses. Now, it's reasonable to assume the Giants will not pay Nicks anything near the five-year, $43 million they granted Cruz this summer.
In the midst of countless trade rumors, you'd have to assume Minnesota's lowly secondary will be a welcomed sight for Nicks. Leslie Frazier's team has allowed 308 yards per game through the air in 2013.
The struggles endured by Nicks and Randle are a microcosm of the challenges New York have failed to overcome as a team this fall. Look for Hakeem Nicks to be opportunistic and exploit an equally discouraged opponent on Monday night.