No team has experienced more major injuries than the Minnesota Vikings, but that hasn’t derailed the defending NFC North champs one bit. Even after quarterback Teddy Bridgewater suffered a season-ending injury in preseason and Adrian Peterson went down with a knee injury in Week 2, Minnesota continues to look like the best team in the NFC.
Maybe the Vikings won’t end the regular season as the No.1 seed in the NFC, but there’s no debating that they’ve been the conference’s most impressive team heading into their Week 4 matchup with the New York Giants on “Monday Night Football.” Only the Philadelphia Eagles have gone 3-0, as well, and the Vikings have played the far superior schedule.
While two of Philadelphia’s wins have come against the winless Cleveland Browns and Chicago Bears, Minnesota has defeated the Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers. Green Bay and Carolina are projected to be top Super Bowl contenders, led by the NFC’s top two quarterbacks, both of whom struggled mightily against the Vikings’ defense. It’s the biggest reason why Minnesota is a five-point home favorite against New York at Las Vegas and online sportsbooks, via OddsShark.
Throwing for six touchdowns and no interceptions in Green Bay’s other two games, Aaron Rodgers was limited to one passing touchdown and an interception against the Vikings with a season-low 70.7 passer rating. After Cam Newton threw for 353 yards and four scores in Week 2, Minnesota picked him off three times and didn’t allow him to throw for a score. Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota was largely unimpressive against the Vikings in the season opener, and Eli Manning is likely to suffer the same fate as the aforementioned signal callers.
A year after they ranked fifth in the NFL in points allowed, Minnesota’s defense has been even better. They rank third in 2016 by allowing just 13.3 points per game, and no team has more than the Vikings’ 15 sacks. Defensive end Everson Griffen is the reigning NFC Defensive Player of the Week after sacking Newton three times, and linebacker Eric Kendricks won the award in Week 1 by returning an interception for a touchdown and recording seven tackles.
Manning could become very familiar with the likes of Griffen, Kendricks and former teammate Linval Joseph, who has a sack in every game. Despite having Odell Beckham Jr. and a top receiving corps at his disposal, Manning and the Giants’ offense has looked disjointed at times, unable to turn their talent into what could be a top scoring unit.
The Giants are 21st in points per game, yet they haven’t faced a team that ranks higher than 21st in total defense. New York has too much talent to continue having trouble scoring for that much longer, but a game on the road against an elite defense that historically gives Manning trouble doesn’t seem like the time for the Giants to turn it around.
The players have changed over the years, but no team has given Manning more trouble since he entered the league than the Vikings. In eight games against Minnesota, the quarterback has won three times, throwing five touchdowns and 14 interceptions. It’s not likely that Manning will finally breakout against the Vikings when he faces their best defense in years.
New York certainly has a chance to keep the game close, potentially playing in a low-scoring affair that could finish well below the over/under of 43 points. The Giants have won two of their first three games because of their defense and the additions they made in free agency. New York ranks 10th in yards allowed and 11th in points allowed, and they’ll be going up against an offense that hasn’t been overly impressive.
The Vikings couldn’t get anything going on the ground without Peterson in Week 3, but even before the star running back got hurt, he was off to a historically bad start. Minnesota’s offensive line has been brutal, and it might struggle against a defense that’s second in yards allowed per carry.
Minnesota has gone undefeated by limiting their mistakes on offense and making big plays on defense, and things shouldn’t be much different on Monday night.
Prediction: Minnesota over New York, 20-13