You wouldn't think of a game between teams with a combined 1-10 record as being worthy of prime time attention, but this Monday night's matchup between the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants should be filled with enough desperation to make for a surprisingly good show.
Just two seasons removed from a Super Bowl victory, the Giants find themselves in a shocking 0-6 hole, their worst start since 1976. The Vikings, a playoff team a year ago, have regressed under unsteady quarterback play and poor defense, and find themselves at 1-4. With pride -- and jobs -- on the line, this one could get fierce in the Meadowlands.
Meet the Giants
The Giants were tantalizingly close to their first win last week against the Bears, but a late Eli Manning interception -- his third of the game and league-leading 15th of the season -- cemented a 27-21 loss. The game was more than just a painful tease, however -- the team showed real improvement. The worst rushing offense in the league for much of the season, the Giants got a surprising 106-yard, two-touchdown performance from a resurrected Brandon Jacobs.
The defense, the league's worst in terms of points allowed, also played much better against the Bears. While the Giants still allowed 372 yards of offense, the 27 points was actually the first time they'd held an opponent under 30 this season -- baby steps, y'all -- and more importantly, they played well enough to give the offense a chance. If Eli can stop spewing turnovers like a faulty vending machine, the Giants may finally notch a few in the win column.
Meet the Vikings
Last week was an emotional time for the Vikings, who rallied around Adrian Peterson after he learned of the tragic death of his son. Peterson's 62 yards rushing in the loss to the Panthers was his lowest output of the season, but the All-Pro is still fourth in rushing yardage and second in touchdowns in the league. Of much greater concern for the Vikings is the quarterback position, where Josh Freeman was just named the stater in only his second week on the team. Having given up on Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel as viable options, the team is hoping Freeman, who spent his first four seasons in Tampa before being cut two weeks ago, can bring much needed consistency to the position.
The Vikings have only held an opponent under 30 points once themselves -- coincidentally, their lowest total was also 27 points -- and have plenty of issues of their own on defense. They are giving up an average of 418 yards per game -- second worst in the league -- and have been especially susceptible to the pass thanks to a banged-up secondary. The loss of linebacker Desmond Bishop to a torn ACL doesn't make matters any better.
Local Takes: Giants
With any real postseason aspirations dashed just six games into the season, Ed Valentine of Big Blue View writes that the Giants' focus from here on out should be evaluating the talent on their roster in preparation for a reshuffling this offseason.
Coughlin, and everyone in the organization, is likely loathe to admit it, but this season is lost for the Giants -- at least in terms of the grandiose goal of being the first team to win a Super Bowl in their home stadium. The year, however, does not have to be a total bust. The brutal truth is that, while it would be nice to win a respectable number of games the rest of the way the outcomes of the next 10 games don't really matter. What the Giants learn about who can -- and can't -- be part of the long-term solution does matter.
Local Takes: Vikings
Ted Glover of Daily Norseman wonders if Freeman can finally provide the consistency under center that the Vikings have been unable to find over the last seven years.
Freeman becomes the 11th starting quarterback for the Vikings since 2006, a staggering level of uncertainty for the most important position on the field. Freeman hopes to do what Brad Johnson, Tarvaris Jackson, Kelly Holcomb, Brooks Bollinger, Gus Frerotte, Brett Favre, Joe Webb, Donovan McNabb, Ponder, and Cassel couldn't do, and that's to provide long term stability at the quarterback position, a proposition that has been much easier said than done for the Vikings throughout a good portion of franchise history.
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"Hey, we're going to draft these three great talents in Round 1. Then you know what we'll do? Not play them!" #Vikings— The Daily Norseman (@DailyNorseman) October 14, 2013
From SBN's Week 7 picks:
It's Thursday Night Football on Monday night. It's also Josh Freeman's first chance to make Greg Schiano look even more petulant ... in prime time. However, this game isn't going to be decided by Minnesota's new quarterback. Opponents can run against the Giants as well as they can pass. Plan on a big day from Adrian Peterson.
The pick: Vikings
The Giants opened as 2½-point favorites, and the line has since moved to three points, according to Odds Shark.