Folger’s Forecast: Vikings (1-4) at Giants (0-6)

We can all agree that the 2013 Giants are going nowhere. With 10 games left, that’s a long string to play out.

The offseason is the real key–a lot of dead wood needs to be moved–but that’s still months away. 

Interestingly, the trading deadline is less than two weeks away. NFL trades are rare, but the spate of injuries around the league at positions where the Giants actually have some depth, such as receiver and defensive tackle, could make for some interesting developments.

This week is one of those “winnable” games for the Giants. The Vikings will be starting their third quarterback, and were thoroughly embarrassed at home last week by Carolina.

They still have Adrian Peterson and some recognizable names on offense, but who’s kidding whom? The Giants have recognizable names too.

Giants on Offense
This game will be Eli Manning’s to win or lose.  If he doesn’t turn the ball over, it should be a comfortable win.  Moving the ball has been a problem, however, though two red zone rushing touchdowns last week helped calm down the panic on offense.

Prior to last week, the lack of a running game had made Manning’s red zone limitations even more obvious.  Without either a running game or a mobile quarterback, it’s difficult to score red zone touchdowns in this league.

Manning has also lost his fourth-quarter magic.  Historically, he’s been at his worst early in games (see last week), but he’s always been able to pull a few rabbits out of his hat late.  Not so this year.

We think the league is finally catching up with the Giants’ big-play offense.  Take away the big plays, and this offense doesn’t know how to make enough little plays to get things done.

A lot of the blame has to go on this offense’s design.  In today’s NFL, you need to open up the defense with an effective short game.  The 2013 Giants offense doesn’t have one.

The offensive line’s blocking has improved, but we’re far from sold on this group.  Significant problems remain in the backfield and at tight end.  Reliable third down backs and short-range tight ends can help an offense move the chains.  The Giants don’t appear to have either.

Thus, the offense has become painfully predictable and limited, and defenses are jumping on its strength, the wide receivers.  The good news this week is that Minnesota is weak in the secondary, but we’ve heard that “good news” before.

The Vikings have a solid front seven.  If the offensive line can’t get the likes of Kevin Williams, Jared Allen, Brian Robison, and three veteran linebackers blocked, then it won’t matter who is playing corner.  This game will be decided in this pit match-up, and it very much favors the Vikings.

Giants on Defense
The defense has a chance to make a statement this week.  The Vikings’ offense is on life support, and it all starts at the revolving door behind center.  Just a Viking for two weeks, recently signed Josh Freeman will start, which is the very definition of a desperation move.

Stop Adrian Peterson and you stop the Vikings.  Look for the defense to devote a lot of resources to Peterson, which will leave wide outs Greg Jennings and Jerome Simpson,  and tight end Kyle Rudolph isolated against the Giants’ defensive backs.

Finding a pass rush would certainly help matters, but we don’t know where it’s going to come from.  Rookie Damontre Moore is the only defensive end who can possibly turn the corner, but he’s not getting on the field.  Cullen Jenkins is the team’s best inside pass rusher.  If neither player comes up big, the secondary could be in trouble.

The respective declines of Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul are the core reasons why this defense can’t get off the field.  The quickly aging Tuck is playing his last games as a Giant, while Pierre-Paul’s back has turned him into Ordinary Joe.

We really liked what we saw of Jon Beason last week, who showed what a middle linebacker is supposed to look like.  Beason’s strength is against the run, which makes him a good matchup against Peterson, but a poor matchup against tight end Kyle Rudolph in coverage.

It looks like the coaches have committed to getting Will Hill on the field, which means there will be lots more of the three-safety looks.  Hill should be a big part of this defense’s future, but only if he can keep his head on straight.

We’re still waiting on someone in the secondary to make a big play.  We didn’t think the loss of Stevie Brown would mean so much.  Antrel Rolle, where are you?

Giants on Specials
Neither team has a legitimate return threat.  Field goals could make the difference, and that’s a match-up that favors the Vikings’ Blair Walsh, who is one of the league’s top young placekickers.

Josh Brown, on the other hand, hasn’t attempted a field in two weeks, nor has he made one in four weeks.  That’s one heck of a drought.  At least Steve Weatherford has been punting the ball better, but his directional skills still need improvement.

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