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2022 NFL season: Five things to watch for in Giants-Vikings on Super Wild Card Weekend

New York Giants
2022 · 9-7-1
Minnesota Vikings
2022 · 13-4-0

The No. 3 seed Minnesota Vikings will host the No. 6 seed New York Giants on Sunday afternoon in the wild-card round in a rematch of a game from just three weeks ago that ended in last-second heroics.

When the Giants visited U.S. Bank Stadium on Christmas Eve, New York put up over 400 yards of total offense, but takeaways by Minnesota’s defense kept the game close. And with it all tied up and seconds to go, Vikings kicker Greg Joseph booted a 61-yard field goal right through the uprights, both a career-high and a new franchise record, to eke out the win.

The Vikings clinched their first NFC North title since 2017 in head coach Kevin O’Connell’s first season at the helm. A series of seven wins in a row in the middle of the season helped the team to a 13-4 record, also Minnesota's best since 2017.

The 9-7-1 Giants are back in the postseason for the first time since 2016, and are hunting for their first playoffs win since 2011, the year New York won Super Bowl XLVI. After years of struggles, the Giants grabbed a wild-card spot despite playing in the highly competitive NFC East, and will try to revive the postseason success of years past with their own first-year coach, Brian Daboll.

Interestingly, despite making the playoffs, both teams finished the regular season with a negative point differential, having scored fewer points overall than their opponents (Giants: -6; Vikings: -3). This makes Sunday’s game the fourth between two such teams in the postseason. And funny enough, the only team to win a Super Bowl after having a negative point differential in the regular season was the 2011 Giants squad.

We just recently saw these two teams face off in a highly entertaining matchup, but it’s a new year and time for a rematch with Super Bowl dreams on the line. Who will come out on top, and what storylines figure to matter most?

Here are five things to watch for when the Vikings host the Giants on Sunday:

  1. A nail-biter is more than likely. The first time these two teams faced off just a few weeks ago, a back-and-forth matchup was ended by a game-winning field goal as time expired. And this was not an anomaly for either team, as both have had their fair share of close games this season. The Vikings had 11 games finish within one score (two in overtime), and they won all of them, setting a new NFL record for most one-score games won in a season. And the Giants have had 13 of their games finish with less than an eight-point difference, though they went 8-4-1 in such contests. So if the trends of the regular season hold for both teams, and we also draw from what we saw just a few weeks ago, we can expect that this will be one matchup that will go down to the wire.
  2. Two QBs with a lot to prove. Both the Vikings and the Giants will be back in the postseason after a couple years off, and with those returns to the playoffs come opportunities for both Kirk Cousins and Daniel Jones to prove their mettle. Cousins has played three playoff games in his career, but has developed a reputation for not being able to show up in prime time, going 12-20 in such games and 1-2 in the postseason. With Sunday marking Cousins’ first playoff start at U.S. Bank Stadium, will this be the game where he pushes aside the doubts about his play under pressure and sends his team to the next round? On the other side is Jones, making his first playoff appearance in his fourth season and the subject of much scrutiny as the leader of a franchise in search of its first postseason success in over a decade. A playoff run would cap off a strong season for Jones, who was looking to prove he could be the Giants’ long-term option at QB after they didn’t pick up his fifth-year option last offseason. These are two quarterbacks in different eras of their careers, but both will have a personal point to prove with a win.
  3. Can Saquon find repeat success? While Jones and the rest of the offense have done their fair share of work in getting New York where it is, Saquon Barkley has been the true core piece of the unit. In his first season since his rookie year that hasn’t been shortened by injuries, Barkley put up his best numbers since 2018, leading the Giants’ fourth-ranked rushing offense with his 1,307 yards on the ground, also good for fourth in the league this season. His numbers tapered off a bit as the season went on, with his rush yards per game going down to 54.4 from Weeks 11-18, as opposed to the 103.4 he was averaging the first 10 weeks of the season. But in the Giants’ first game against the Vikings, Barkley had 133 scrimmage yards, including a season-high 49 yards receiving. If he can put on a similar performance in this trip to Minneapolis, it’ll set New York up well for a W.
  4. We finally get to see playoffs Jefferson. While New York’s run game is its strength, the Vikings thrive on their top-six passing attack, and Justin Jefferson’s record-breaking season has been the catalyst for this explosive offense. Jefferson led the NFL with 128 receptions and 1,809 receiving yards in the regular season, making him only one of six players all time to reach the 1,800-yard threshold. Most impressively, he is the first player in NFL history to have at least 125 receptions and still average at least 14 yards per catch. He had no issues when facing New York the first time around, racking up 12 catches for 133 yards and a touchdown in the win, the most receiving yards and second-most receptions allowed by the Giants in 2022. How this unprecedented season carries over into his first appearance in the playoffs is yet to be revealed, but we’ll be on the lookout for fireworks.
  5. Giants secondary getting reinforcements. Along with Jefferson, the Vikings’ pass catchers have been a problem for opposing teams all year, and the Giants were not exempt in struggling to combat the firepower. With Jefferson’s 133 yards in the Christmas Eve game and tight end T.J. Hockenson’s 109, they became the first teammates in NFL history to each have at least 12 receptions, 100 yards and a touchdown in the same game. As the Giants look to avoid a repeat performance, they got some helpful news on the injury front. Defensive backs Adoree’ Jackson and Xavier McKinney both missed the first game against Minnesota with injuries, but McKinney is now back and Jackson is trending in that direction. Adding these two cornerbacks back into the secondary means the defense will play at full strength for really the first time this season, and the Giants might have a much better chance of limiting the Vikings’ pass catchers.

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