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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Preview: Vikings’ defense on the mend with Beckham-less Giants up next

By Andrew Krammer

Minnesota Vikings (9-5) vs. the New York Giants (6-8)

When/where: Sunday, 7:30 p.m. CT at TCF Bank Stadium

Line: Vikings by 6

Series: Vikings lead 14-12

Last meeting: Josh Freeman threw for 190 yards on 53 attempts as Marcus Sherels’ punt return for a touchdown was the Vikings’ lone score in a 23-7 loss to New York at MetLife Stadium on Oct. 21, 2013.

Coaches: Mike Zimmer (16-14, second season) vs. Tom Coughlin (170-148, 20th season)

Last week: The Giants’ 21 fourth-quarter points weren’t enough in a 38-35 loss to Carolina; Teddy Bridgewater accounted for five touchdowns in the Vikings’ 38-17 win over Chicago.

Turning the tables — Linval Joseph’s first game back from a toe injury will be against his former team in the Giants. With Odell Beckham Jr.’s one-game suspension, the on-field spotlight could shift from the secondary to the trenches. Joseph, the Vikings’ bulldozing nose tackle who signed in 2014 free agency, will be part of the first wave of defense against a Giants offense that could lean more on running back Rashad Jennings. Jennings has averaged 4.9 yards on 38 attempts over the last two games, including 107 rushing yards against the undefeated Panthers last week.

A farewell? — Sunday night’s kickoff, on a national broadcast, could be the Vikings’ last in a two-year stay at TCF Bank Stadium as they’ve scheduled the opening of U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis for the 2016 preseason. But there’s only one scenario in which we’ll know for sure by Monday — if the Packers win and the Vikings lose. Should the Vikings win the next two games, they’ll claim the NFC North and host a playoff game at their temporary home next month. Should Sunday be the Vikings’ final home game of the season, it could also be linebacker Chad Greenway’s last game in Minnesota. Greenway, 32, is wrapping up his 10th NFL season, all with the Vikings, and has been leaned on this season by a coaching staff that has dealt with injuries to both Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr. He’s accepted pay cuts in consecutive offseasons and is currently making $4 million in the final year of his contract.

Nearing full strength — The Vikings will gain strength on defense as the Giants are stripped of their best offensive player in Beckham. Linebacker Anthony Barr and safety Harrison Smith are set to return from two-game absences. Without stalwarts at every level, the Vikings’ defense still held it together under coach Mike Zimmer. They’ve allowed just 20 points per without Barr and Smith, and get both back against a prolific Giants’ offense facing a new challenge without Beckham. New York’s 26.6 points per game ranks sixth in the league. But Beckham has accounted for 36 percent of the Giants’ receiving yards and now their left with an unheralded group led by receiver Rueben Randle. Running back Adrian Peterson is also listed as probable to play after spraining an ankle last week against Chicago.

Staying the course — Teddy Bridgewater has a hot hand over the last two weeks, and he may have a decent chance to stay rolling as the Giants defense allowing a NFL-worst 308 passing yards per game. With a nine-digit Jason Pierre-Paul, New York’s pass rush has also struggled with just 19 sacks, the second-fewest in the league. But don’t expect the Vikings to divert from Adrian Peterson unless they have to. Should they be playing for something (explained shortly), they’ll continue to lean on Peterson, who was limited last week by an ankle injury and the Bears’ loaded fronts. He should get plenty of opportunities again on Sunday.

Will it matter? — There’s a scenario that could play out by Sunday night in which the Vikings’ result against the Giants could have little to no impact on their playoff positioning. The Vikings will clinch a playoff berth before kickoff if the Panthers or Seahawks win. If the Packers lose to the Cardinals on Sunday afternoon, the Jan. 3 season finale at Lambeau Field will be for the NFC North title regardless of what the Vikings do on Sunday night. If the Packers (10-4) beat the Cardinals, the Vikings need a win to keep pace. However, the Packers-Cardinals game will not be over by the time Minnesota needs to submit inactive decisions against the Giants. So Peterson, Joseph and the injured should suit up. Zimmer said he’ll consider resting ‘iffy’ players if the scenario arises, which is the Vikings clinching and the Packers losing to Arizona before Sunday night’s kickoff.

Injury reports

Vikings: RB Adrian Peterson (ankle), DE Everson Griffen (shoulder), RB Jerick McKinnon (hamstring), LB Anthony Barr (knee), S Harrison Smith (hamstring/knee), DT Linval Joseph (foot), DT Sharrif Floyd (non-injury), CB Josh Robinson (brain), TE Rhett Ellison (ankle) and WR Charles Johnson (ankle) are probable.

Giants: LB Devon Kennard (foot), DT Markus Kuhn (knee), LB James Morris (quad) and S Cooper Taylor (brain) are out; WR Dwayne Harris (shoulder) is questionable; RB Orleans Darkwa (illness), T Ereck Flowers (illness) and DE George Selvie (brain) are probable.

Prediction

If the Vikings have something to play for, they should have all 22 starters available for the first time in a month. To survive in the NFC East race, the Giants will need to find a way to produce without Beckham. Vikings 26, Giants 13
(Record: 10-4 straight up, 9-5 vs. the spread)

Additional listening: Andrew Krammer and Derek Wetmore preview Vikings-Giants, discuss Odell Beckham Jr., the playoffs and Teddy Bridgewater on the latest Purple Podcast.

The post Preview: Vikings’ defense on the mend with Beckham-less Giants up next appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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