Sunday, October 31, 2004

They Might (Not) Be Giants

The Giants roll into the Metrodome today on the heals of a disappointing home loss to the Detroit Lions. The Giants can take some solace in the fact that they are but one of the Lions' three road victims this season. But that might be the most positive spin the Giants can put on last week's loss.

Minus the spin, the Giants were left to explain a 15-point home loss to team that had two road victories in 2004 by a total margin of 11 points. Maybe the Giants were looking ahead. After all, the Lions had just registered a bona fide and complete melt down at home in a 38-10 collapse against the Pack.

But there was more to it than that. Despite equaling the Lions in net yardage for the game, the Giants had two turnovers to the Lions' zero. Even more ominous were the 6 sacks that the Giants' offensive line allowed, and that cannot bode well for the creaky Kurt Warner who will be without his starting center on Sunday.

If the Vikings hope to replicate the Lions' success last week, they need to do what they appear to have been trying the past two weeks--applying more pressure, more often, and with variation. And the defensive linemen will need to get their mitts up as well to ensure that Warner is unable to get quick releases over the center. If the Tennessee game was a glimpse of defense to come, the Vikings' offense should have more than enough power to overcome the Giants at home this week.

Run Tiki, Run (or Catch Tiki, Catch)

When the Giants have the ball, they likely will employ numerous stunts and screens. If last week is any indication, Raonall Smith and Antoine Winfield appear up to the challenge posed by the screen. The rest will be left to Williams and Hovan in the middle. If they can stop Tiki Barber, the Vikings' offense can stay on the sidelines.

But that's a big "if." Barber tends to play well against Minnesota and has played well against the entire league this season. On the year, Barber is fifth in the NFL rushing the ball, averaging over 100 yards per game. He also averages four receptions a game to the tune of 60 yards per game. Pretty decent production.

Barber's success likely will turn as much on the success of the Minnesota defense in stopping him as it will on the ability of Warner's receivers to catch the ball. Fortunately for the Vikings, Amani Toomer may not play Sunday (game time decision). That would mean that Warner would be left with a receiving corps of Ike Hilliard, Jeremy Shockey, and a host of unknowns. The Giants will feel Toomer's absence, if he is unable to play, as he leads the Giants in receiving yards. If the Giants' passing game collapses so too should Barber's running game.

Throw Daunte Throw (or Run Mewelde Run)

On offense, the Vikings expect to have the services of Randy Moss. That will help the Vikings generate points even if Moss is only well enough to draw double coverage, as it will open the field for Robinson. If Moss plays, he likely will draw coverage from Will Allen with a safety rolling over. Allen is much shorter than Moss at 5'10", but the Giants have little alternative, because (1) Allen is their best cover corner (although Moss acquits himself quite well in the face of Allen's defense recording 5 TDs in the last three meetings against the Giants) and (2) there is still the dilemma of who will cover the lanky Robinson.

Robinson does not have the speed he once possessed but he still has his size. That means that the Giants can mark Robinson with the taller but slower Will Peterson. That is, unless Moss is gimpy. In which case the two corners likely would switch assignments and all would be well for the Giants secondary.

Except that the Vikings still have Burleson when they employ a three-receiver set, and the Giants have only the remaining safety to cover the speedy Burleson. And, unfortunately for the Giants, if the safety were capable of such a feat, he would be playing corner, not safety. Which is why the Giants face the same predicament that all other NFL teams face when opposing the Vikings' offense. Add Jermaine Wiggins to the mix and it should be a tough day for the Giants' defense.

The key, however, will be the Vikings' rushing attack. If Mewelde Moore is able to continue his strong running, the Vikings will force the Giants to bring more defenders up to the line. The odds of that are pretty good given that the Giants rank 22nd in run defense.

Pick

The Giants are a difficult team to read. They have road victories at Green Bay and Dallas but a home loss to the Lions in their most recent game. They have a good pass rush but were beaten as much by the pass (230 yards, 2 TDs) as by the run in their loss to the Lions. That makes them look good, good, and bad.

But the Giants lost to the Eagles in a similar manner as the Vikings lost to Philly and beat the Cowboys in similar fashion as the Vikings. That makes them look comparable to the Vikings.

This suggests either a Vikings' win or a close game with either team having a chance. I like the Vikings at home, though, even if Tiki gets his yards.

Vikings 28, Giants 17.

3 comments:

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