Week 5 in the NFL will feature two teams with identical records, who are trending in opposite directions. First, the 2-2 Minnesota Vikings, who put up six points last week in a lowly effort against the Bears. The Vikings will travel to New York to take on the 2-2 Giants, a team that changed its quarterback after two weeks and has seen back-to-back wins as a result, the latest a 24-3 blowout of the Redskins.
Currently, Minnesota is a 4.5-point favorite on the road. Can they get back on track, or will New York pull off the upset and put themselves into playoff contention? Here’s a preview for Sunday’s game between the Vikings and the Giants.
The Vikings have been a tale of two teams in 2019. There’s the home version, which has drubbed the Falcons and Raiders, looking like a bonafide playoff team in the process. Then there’s the road version, which has lost to the Packers and Bears and looked limited on offense in both games. Week 5 will require the Vikings to play on the road again, albeit against a team that is not as strong defensively as Green Bay or especially Chicago.
Minnesota is a team that relies on running the football and playing solid defense. Star running back Dalvin Cook ran for over 100 yards in each of the first three games but was limited to just 40 rushing yards last Sunday.
This forced Kirk Cousins to throw the ball more, leading to unsatisfactory results. Cousins, now in his second year in Minnesota, threw for just 233 yards last week, taking six sacks and fumbling twice. Historically, the Vikings are better when Cousins is limited, hence why the running game will be emphasized this Sunday.
As far as actives and inactives go, the main one to keep an eye on is wide receiver Stefon Diggs. Diggs has reportedly been unhappy with the state of the offense, with some rumors suggesting he wants a trade out of Minnesota. He hasn’t practiced yet this week, and his status for Sunday remains up in the air.
Minnesota will also keep tabs on starting offensive linemen Garrett Bradbury and Josh Kline. Both have been limited in practice this week, with Kline missing last week’s game.
New York Outlook
The Giants are in the same boat as the Vikings in having two separate teams. But there’s one big difference for New York between the last two weeks and the first two weeks of the season, and that’s at quarterback. Rookie Daniel Jones has dazzled in his first two starts, throwing three touchdown passes and running in another two. But after facing somewhat-porous defenses in Tampa Bay and Washington, his first real test will come against a Vikings team that has allowed the sixth-fewest yards in the league.
New York will once again be aggressive in the passing game with Jones at the helm. He has formed strong connections with wide receiver Sterling Shepard and tight end Evan Engram and now gets Golden Tate back from a four-game suspension. Third-year running back Wayne Gallman had a career week on Sunday against the Redskins, earning over 100 all-purpose yards and scoring twice.
These players will attempt to make up for a below-average defense that has allowed the sixth-most yards in the league, even after last weekend’s strong performance.
The biggest X-factor for New York is their best player, superstar running back Saquon Barkley. Barkley suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 3 against Tampa Bay, an injury that carries a four-to-eight-week timetable for a return to action. However, Barkley has already begun jogging and cutting, and although he did not officially practice earlier this week, coach Pat Shurmur has yet to rule him out for Sunday.
While it seems highly unlikely he plays, the fact that Shurmur wouldn’t rule it out could be an interesting plot twist for the game. Other injuries for the Giants mainly reside in their linebacker department, where Alec Ogletree and Tae Davis are both questionable after missing last week’s game.
Keys to Victory
Minnesota will win if: It stops the Giants on third down. The biggest change to New York’s offense since Jones took over the starting job is its ability to convert on third down and extend drives. Under Jones, New York is 14-for-26 on third downs, compared to the 5-for-23 they were under Eli Manning. The Vikings will have to cover New York’s talented receivers down the field and force Jones to check down as often as possible.
New York will win if: Dalvin Cook is held in check once again. As mentioned earlier, Minnesota lives and dies with the running game. If Cook runs all over a defense that has allowed over 100 yards per game on the ground, the Vikings will be in good shape. However, if Cook is contained and Cousins has to win with his arm (and potentially without Diggs), this game could strongly shift in favor of the Giants.
The Vikings are favored at -4.5 to win, with the point total sitting at 45. This will be a low-scoring game and one that I believe will come down to the wire. Ultimately, I’m taking the upset. Minnesota is the more talented team, but I believe New York is equipped enough along its defensive line to limit Cook’s effectiveness and force Cousins into making mistakes. Give me the Giants to win 20-17.