Vikings offense vs. Giants defense
Can Josh Freeman save the day? His style is similar to Matt Cassel’s, and the Vikings offense has looked a little livelier with Cassel in place of Christian Ponder. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave is working closely with Freeman to get him up to speed on the system. It’s one that features a lot of defined reads for the quarterback, which is what the undisciplined Freeman could use. But it’s also a system that, with some of its protection slide concepts, requires the quarterback to identify and react quickly to blitzes. Whether it’s been Ponder or Cassel at the helm, the Vikings have had major trouble against overload delay blitzes from the left side this year. It’s hard to see that changing with Freeman.
Then there’s the issue of whether Freeman has the right resources around him. If you just watched the film without knowing who was who, you’d never guess that No. 15 in purple is the guy Minnesota spent a guaranteed $17.8 million to get. Greg Jennings has not looked washed up; his role just does not seem clearly defined. (Granted, the incongruence under center has been a factor.) Some defenses have actually treated Jerome Simpson as the No. 1 receiver, which seems almost laughable when considering some of the sloppy mistakes he makes in his route running. At tight end, Kyle Rudolph is solid but not a whole lot more (in terms of how defenses must prepare for him).
Obviously, the Vikings have Adrian Peterson to lean on. But even the best running back in football can’t do anything if defenses can load the box and let their linebackers immediately shoot gaps. The Giants’ linebacking corps is porous, but that would remain untrue if newcomer Jon Beason plays with the speed and pop that he did in his debut last Thursday.
Giants offense vs. Vikings defense
In some ways, New York’s offense is the antithesis of Minnesota’s. Its rushing attack is deprived of viable weapons (Brandon Jacobs ran with fire against Chicago, but he also misread some blocks and had the luxury of facing some soft boxes), while its passing attack is built on more complex multi-reads. Timing is everything for Eli Manning and his receivers. The bulk of their passes are designed for the ball to hit the target precisely at the top of his route. When a routes is not executed efficiently (or correctly, Rueben Randle!), turnovers happen.
The Vikings secondary got beat up a bit last week (literally and figuratively), so this is a great chance for the Giants to regain their rhythm. That is, if their offensive line allows it. Left tackle Will Beatty has been a little better since stumbling out of the gates and then face-planting in Week 3 at Carolina, but he’s been getting very steady chip-block help. So has right tackle Justin Pugh, who must strengthen his lower body. Vikings defensive ends Brian Robison, Everson Griffen and especially Jared Allen are capable of ruining the Giants’ night.
The good news for the Giants is they’re facing a zone-based defense, which makes it a little easier for offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride to sacrifice No. 4 and 5 receiving options for the purposes of chip-block help. The longer the quarterback is able to hold the ball, the looser the natural voids in a zone coverage become. Manning is plenty comfortable hanging in the pocket and letting routes unfold late. He’ll have to hope that his team’s seven-on-four advantage up front can be overwhelming enough to overcome a three-on-seven disadvantage downfield.