The Minnesota Vikings are hosting the New York Giants in one of the most evenly-matched Super Wild Card Weekend games. Three weeks ago, these two teams put up nearly 800 yards of total offense in a banger decided by Greg Joseph‘s 61-yard field goal.
A game like this could have analysts flipping back and forth to pick a winner. But when it comes to this year, a message needs to be sent.
It’s time to believe in this year’s Vikings.
The storyline coming into the game is nothing new. The national media has clowned the Vikings throughout the season because they’ve won 11 one-score games and been blown out three times on national television. Just mentioning Kirk Cousins makes them pull out of interviews. When it comes to Sunday’s game, there aren’t many that believe.
I probably have to speak quickly before the NFL comes to my doorstep, but if you want an example, look at the gambling scene coming into Sunday’s game. According to The Action Network, 54% have taken the Giants plus-three, and a whopping 90% of the money has been thrown toward Big Blue.
It’s weird to think that a 9-7-1 team that went 2-5-1 in their last seven games is “peaking.” But that’s exactly what the Giants and their apologists are saying heading into this matchup.
When you look at Brian Daboll, you might as well be talking about the second coming of Vince Lombardi. Daboll changed the vibes of a team that hadn’t been to the playoffs since 2016 and convinced Daniel Jones to stop turning the ball over. Competing in a cutthroat NFC East, the Giants fought their way to the playoffs and have managed to have a positive feeling every step of the way.
If you’ve heard this before, it’s exactly what Kevin O’Connell has done with the Vikings. Just one year ago, the Vikings were 8-9 and embarking on a full-blown rebuild. A culture that had been defined by running the football, finger-pointing, and yearly changes at offensive coordinator had been changed into one that allowed them to win the NFC North for the first time since 2017.
But if we’re talking about the coach of the year, we definitely have to give Daboll the edge. When it comes to Saturday, Daboll should also have the edge over a head coach going into his first playoff game.
Wait…Daboll doesn’t have any playoff experience, either? Next topic!
No team should ever put their faith in a quarterback like Cousins. He’s the master of cashing in! His teammates don’t even like him, and he got into a fight with his head coach last year. When you look at Cousins, you routinely ask yourself why he can’t be like Daniel Jones. Oh, you say you’ve never asked yourself why Cousins can’t be Daniel Jones? Well, Dan Orlovsky is.
Orlovsky is known in Vikings folklore as the quarterback who ran out of the back of his own end zone while trying to escape Jared Allen. The former Detroit Lions quarterback released his playoff quarterback power rankings earlier this week and had Jones eighth on his list. He cited Jones’s 75.9% completion rate on throws between the hashes and his 600 rushing yards.
Of course, throws up the middle are nothing more than check-downs, especially when you consider that Jones’ average depth of target was 6.4 yards this season. Not throwing the ball recklessly downfield is one way to cut your interception percentage in half, but it’s not enough to defend a take that he is better than Cousins.
Cousins has his flaws, but he’s found a way to excel under pressure. In 2021, Cousins ranked 14th with a 72.5 passer rating when pressured. Under O’Connell, that number has jumped to 83.4 – the sixth-highest rate in the NFL.
There’s also the eight fourth-quarter comebacks, which came as he was tossed around behind an offensive line featuring Ed Ingram, who led the NFL with 58 pressures allowed, and Ezra Cleveland, who was third at 53 pressures.
But what about the primetime games?
Cousins’ performance during primetime isn’t pretty, but Jones is just as likely to short-circuit under the lights. The Giants have played five games in the late afternoon or primetime slot this season, and Jones’ passer rating of 81.8 is just ahead of Cousins’ 80.1 mark. While Cousins is more likely to give the ball away, Jones has his own turnover history. He coughed up 65 combined fumbles and interceptions in his first three seasons in the league.
What’s to say Jones won’t revert to his old form in a playoff scenario?
Well, it looks like the cops are coming, so I better wrap up.
The Giants’ best argument for a win on Sunday is that this time the Vikings won’t be as lucky. A 61-yard field goal by Joseph is a pretty remarkable occasion, but the things that led to it included:
- Daniel Bellinger fumbling the ball.
- Jones throwing a fourth-quarter interception.
- Josh Metellus blocking a punt.
- Richie James dropped the ball on third down.
Listing these one by one is not only reminiscent of Zimmer standing in front of his team last November and telling them that everything isn’t his fault, but it also discredits the Vikings.
They’re a team in the top 10 in points and total offense for the first time since 2009 and just the second time since doing it in three-straight seasons from 2002 to 2004. They’re a team who is a bottom-five defense but is 10th in the league in turnovers. And they’re a team that either led or was tied in most of the previous meeting with the Giants and has made a habit of bucking any conventional wisdom.
This is a good team, and it’s one that you should believe in come Sun—[sound of the NFL cops kicking in the door]