The Minnesota Vikings have been one of the NFL's most pleasant surprises in the early part of the season. Despite losing their most important offensive players to injury, the defense has carried them to a 3-0 start. They'll look to keep the good times rolling when they take on the New York Giants on Monday Night Football.
The game will be aired on ESPN and streamed online at WatchESPN.
When Teddy Bridgewater tore his ACL and dislocated his knee in the preseason, it was seen as a devastating loss for a team that otherwise looked like a Super Bowl contender. Trading a first-round pick for Sam Bradford seemed rash at best and laughable at worst. It was a desperate move for an average quarterback. Then Adrian Peterson tore his meniscus in Week 2 and, for lesser teams and coaches, that could've been curtains on the season.
However, Mike Zimmer is no ordinary coach, and his defense looks like it's one of the best in football, possibly even surpassing the Denver Broncos. Through five games, the Vikings have five interceptions, recovered four fumbles and have a turnover differential of +8. The offense hasn't been great, but Bradford is a good enough game manager, and Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata are doing a fine job filling in for Peterson. The result is a 3-0 start and Zimmer the early frontrunner for Coach of the Year. We'll see how long they can keep this up, but they look like legitimate playoff contenders even after all those setbacks.
The Giants started off 2-0 thanks largely to an improved defense, although they took a step back against Washington in Week 3. New York let Kirk Cousins throw for two touchdowns and 296 yards with no interceptions. And Eli Manning's comeback effort came short when he threw the game-sealing pick on the final drive.
It was a discoursing loss and the Giants got more bad news this week, when running back Shane Vereen was placed on injured reserve with a torn triceps. With starter Rashad Jennings battling a left thumb injury, that leaves New York's running game in a bind. This could be the game we start seeing more of fifth-round rookie Paul Perkins, who's been playing mostly special teams up to this point.
Of course, the focal point of the Giants' offense is the passing game, with Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz shaping up as one of the best receiver trios in the league. Beckham had a field day against Josh Norman last week, racking up seven catches for 121 yards. He also hasn't scored any touchdowns this year and lost a fight with a kicking net, so it hasn't been all smooth sailing for the third-year star. He'll have his work cut out for him against Minnesota's imposing cornerback duo of Xavier Rhodes and Captain Munnerlyn.
This looks to be a fun matchup that should answer a lot of questions about both teams. Are the Vikings for real, or is it smoke and mirrors that will eventually be exposed? Are the Giants ready to get back into playoff contention, or will they continue being stuck in neutral? We could find out Monday night.
How to watch
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Place: U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis
Announcers: Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters
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