Behind Enemy Lines: Wild Card Q&A with Vikings Wire

The New York Giants (9-7-1) and Minnesota Vikings (13-4) will square off on Sunday afternoon in a Wild Card Playoff matchup at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The Giants opened the week as 3-point road underdogs and that’s where the spread remains as of this writing.

With this matchup on tap, Giants Wire took the opportunity to hold a Q&A with Vikings Wire managing editor Tyler Forness.

How will injuries across the offensive line impact the Vikings on Sunday?

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Forness: I think it will both be impactful and minimal at the same time. In the first matchup, the Vikings didn’t have center Garrett Bradbury who is primed for a return after being out for the last five games. The big difference is that star right tackle Brian O’Neill will be out after he suffered a partially torn Achilles tendon against the Green Bay Packers two weeks ago.

With the return of tight end Irv Smith Jr. this past week, I expect the Vikings will do what they did against the New England Patriots: run 12 personnel and chip to help either Oli Udoh or Blake Brandel at right tackle.

T.J. Hockenson and Justin Jefferson accounted for 25 of the team’s 34 receptions in Week 16. Will the Vikings try to spread it around more on Sunday?

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One thing that quarterback Kirk Cousins has been good at this year is spreading the ball around. Even though Jefferson led the league with 128 receptions, they weren’t spamming him with targets. Hockenson has become a safety blanket for Cousins but they are also targeting him downfield as well.

The X-factor in the receiving game is the Vikings’ fourth option K.J. Osborn. He doubled his production from the first 14 weeks over the last four including the best two games of his career against the Colts and Bears.

Kirk Cousins is 7-16 in the late afternoon time slot. Is that just a coincidence or is there something more to that record?

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The Vikings are almost only in the late afternoon time slot when they are playing top competition so I don’t think it means a ton. A starting quarterback struggling to win against top teams isn’t something that concerns me a lot, especially since most quarterbacks don’t have a tremendous record against those teams. Plus, Daniel Jones is also 2-15 in that same time slot. I don’t even have it as a thought in my mind as both players are arguably playing the best football of their careers.

Harrison Smith is a little banged up. How will that injury (or his potential absence) impact the secondary?

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Harrison Smith has been the catalyst of the defense and is also a huge leadership presence on the back end. He hasn’t been quite the same player as he was last season, but that’s also because his responsibilities have changed. Smith has been asked to play more of a deep safety role instead of being able to roam around and be the riverboat gambler that he was under Mike Zimmer. If he is out, Josh Metellus will take his place and he has been playing great football.

Isaiah Hodgins had a big game last time and may have taken the Vikings by surprise. Do you expect them to place more of an emphasis on stopping him on Sunday?

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I don’t think the Vikings will be putting emphasis on anyone. They need to play better in coverage and with the Giants being so good in the quick game, press coverage needs to be a priority. Hodgins and Richie James Jr. did a lot of damage catching balls underneath and getting yards after the catch with most of that due to off-coverage. Defensive coordinator Ed Donatell has shown an unwillingness to change his play calling, but the playoffs could be the right time to add some more wrinkles.

How do you see this game going and who do you think wins?

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This is set up to be a tremendous football game. Both teams have outperformed expectations this season but all of that gets thrown out the window with the playoffs being a brand new season. The Vikings are getting healthier and are proving to be less reliant on Jefferson.

The key to winning the game for the Vikings will be taking advantage of Wink Martindale’s aggressive defense with screens behind the blitzes and misdirection to get defenders thinking rather than reacting. The Vikings will do just enough to get the win, this time without needing a 61-yard field goal.

Vikings 27, Giants 23.

Story originally appeared on Giants Wire