By Paul Dottino
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Although you may not think it's possible, the Giants really are not the worst team in the NFL -- despite their 0-6 record.
Surely, they've done enough self-destructive things to make one believe that they belong at the bottom. However, they're entering a three-game stretch which includes games against the worse-off Minnesota Vikings (1-4) on Monday and the Oakland Raiders (2-4) on November 10. Yes, I said it: worse-off
Go ahead, you can use a microscope to look at the rosters of those teams and still not find how they are more talented than the Giants. Therein lies the issue: Talent does not win games. Execution does.
Here are three of the key matchups to watch:
1) Vikings RB Adrian Peterson vs. Giants MLB Jon Beason: Few would dispute that Peterson (483 yards, 4.7 avg.) is the NFL's premier running back. In fact, Beason went as far as to say that Peterson's toughness would allow him to play linebacker or safety, if he so desired. But the Giants' run defense has handed out its share of hits over the past three weeks, holding the Chiefs' Jamaal Charles, the Eagles' LeSean McCoy and the Bears' Matt Forte to under 70 rushing yards apiece.
In fact, those three averaged 59 yards on 19 carries against the Giants. And Beason (11 solo tackles vs. Chicago in his first start) only has added to the tough defensive interior, which just so happens to be where Peterson prefers to run. He's averaging almost seven yards per carry when running behind or between C John Sullivan and RG Brandon Fusco. LDT Linval Joseph and sub Shaun Rogers must continue to hold their ground while Beason seeks out the ball carrier.
2) Vikings QB Josh Freeman vs. Giants CBs Prince Amukamara and Terrell Thomas: Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier said Freeman, who was signed after the Bucs released him less than two weeks ago, will make his first start because he has been a quick study. However, Freeman's success isn't just tied to how much he's crammed -- it's about how quickly he and his new teammates can establish some rhythm and consistency.
There's no doubt that Freeman has a stronger arm than the Vikings' Christian Palmer and Matt Cassel, so he'll want to take some deep shots to starting WRs Jerome Simpson and Greg Jennings. The Giants' corners ought to do their best to get physical with them to throw off whatever delicate timing the Vikings have tried to develop. Freeman also is more mobile than the Vikings' other quarterbacks and he may try to take off with the ball in a key spot.
3) Giants RB Brandon Jacobs vs. Vikings OLB Chad Greenway and MLB Erin Henderson: Jacobs carried the ball 22 times -- his most attempts since Week 3 of 2009 -- in pounding out 106 yards and two TDs against the Bears. He also ended the game with a tweaked hamstring, which he insists will not be a factor on Monday night.
The Giants cannot afford to have him on the bench, with little-used rookie Michael Cox and newly-signed veteran Peyton Hillis in reserve. Minnesota's once-tough run defense has deteriorated, allowing 138 yards per game (4.0 avg.). Greenway is a solid tackler who covers the field well, averaging 149 tackles from 2010-12, and he has 43 stops this season. Henderson has played better and he remains a solid player.
PREDICTION: Giants 30, Vikings 24
PREDICTION VS. SPREAD: 4-2
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