When Teddy Bridgewater tore his ACL at the end of training camp, it seemed like the Vikings were a long shot to post a winning season, never mind contend for the role of best team in the NFC. But through the first three weeks of the season, the Vikings are among the cream of the crop. If they can defeat the New York Giants Monday night, they would further solidify themselves as a team to beat in the conference.
That sounds odd on the surface to suggest that a win over the Giants matters so much, considering the Giants have gone 19-29 over their last three seasons. Despite this recent run of mediocrity, however, they are still viewed as one of the premier NFL franchises. This can be attributed in part to their stability, as the Mara family has owned the team since its inception in 1925. No matter how many losing seasons the Giants put up, nobody believes ownership is going to act rashly.
The Giants made a coaching change for the first time in 12 years when they parted ways with Tom Coughlin over the winter and promoted offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. The Giants are currently 2-1 on the season after coming off a disheartening loss to Washington last week.
Eli Manning threw two costly interceptions in the loss, including a pick in the red zone. The throw was so bad that it brought Odell Beckham Jr. to tears.
TEARS OF IMPOTENT RAGE pic.twitter.com/thA2QiuZKK— SB Nation GIF (@SBNationGIF) September 25, 2016
Given Manning's penchant for turnovers (he's led the league in interceptions on three occasions) the stout Vikings defense must be licking its chops heading into Monday's matchup. Minnesota dominated the Carolina Panthers last week, making life miserable for Cam Newton in the process. They sacked the reigning MVP on eight occasions and intercepted him three times as well. Minnesota leads the league with a +8 turnover differential and has also recorded a league-leading 15 sacks.
It's not difficult to imagine the Vikings' defense leading them to the promised land. The Denver Broncos received the some of the worst quarterback play in the league last season from Peyton Manning and were still able to raise the Lombardi Trophy thanks to a dominant defense.
Though the Vikings' offense has paled in comparison to the defense (they only gained 34 yards in the first half last week,) Sam Bradford is holding his own under center. The 2010 No. 1 overall pick has posted a 107.8 QB rating through three games.
With Adrian Peterson and left tackle Matt Kalil out, the onus will fall on Bradford to lead the Vikings on the offensive side of the ball. The key to the game may be how a refurbished Giants secondary performs and if Bradford can negotiate the potentially difficult matchup.
The Vikings' most impressive wins this season have come against the Green Bay Packers and the Panthers. Manning, however, offers a challenge, as he is the only active NFC quarterback with multiple Super Bowl rings on his resume. If the Vikings' defense can shut Manning down and contain Beckham on Monday night, it's difficult to imagine the Giants offense being able to do much.