For the first time since January 11, 2020, when the San Francisco 49ers toppled the Minnesota Vikings in the divisional round, the Vikings will compete in playoff football on Sunday afternoon when they host the New York Giants in the wildcard round.
If Minnesota is to advance to the divisional round — as I have predicted — there are three Vikings players to watch who I think will have a crucial role to play.
These Are the 3 Vikings Players to Watch vs. Giants
As the number 3 seed, the Vikings are favorites against the number 6 seed Giants. Though it seems everywhere you look, people are predicting a New York win. Minnesota will need to be at its best and needs big performances all over the field. However, these are the three players who have the biggest roles to play.
Justin Jefferson will be playing in his first playoff game, and expectations are high for the Vikings superstar wide receiver. Jefferson caught 12 passes for 133 yards and a touchdown in Week 16 as the Vikings beat the Giants at U.S. Bank stadium. Having already faced Jefferson once this season, the Giants defense may be more prepared for him. Having a big game against the same opposition twice in one season isn’t easy.
Jefferson is rightfully considered the best WR in the league by many. Stats in the regular season are great, but making a mark in the postseason is the Holy Grail. It would be unfair to suggest any success the Vikings may have in the playoffs rests solely on Jefferson’s shoulders. However, if they are to make some noise, the Vikings will need their star to shine brightly.
The weakness of the Giants defense has been relatively obvious all season. They struggle against the run. They allowed, on average, 144.2 rushing yards per game during the regular season — the 27th-most across the league. The Vikings didn’t particularly take advantage of that in December. Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison combined for just 81 rushing yards in Minnesota’s 27-24 win.
Cook rushed only 14 times for 64 yards at an average of 4.6 yards per carry, which is slightly above his 4.4 yards per carry throughout the season. Minnesota has undoubtedly become a pass-focused offense, but with Cook and Mattison at their disposal and the Giants weakness, this isn’t a game to forget about the run. The Vikings should want their rushing yards tally to be well north of 100.
Experience is vital in January football, and the Vikings have plenty of it, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Defensive coordinator Ed Donatell is leaning on experience with Patrick Peterson and Dalvin Tomlinson.
Peterson had a rough first half against the Giants in the regular season. He was beaten by Isaiah Hodgins deep a couple of times, but using his experience, a fired-up Peterson didn’t flinch and came back with a vital interception. The veteran cornerback has rolled back the years this year, being named second-team All-Pro by Pro Football Focus.