Vikings or 49ers: Which team should Giants want to face in NFL playoffs?

New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) is sacked by Minnesota Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson (7) during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium.
New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) is sacked by Minnesota Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson (7) during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. / Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Based on all that rivalry heat – Joe Montana, Phil Simms, Jerry Rice, Jim Burt and company, plus eight previous playoff matchups – it’s hard to imagine a Giants fan rooting for the San Francisco 49ers.

Go Niners? Ecch.

But based on playoff positioning this season, you couldn’t be blamed for sporting a Deebo Samuel jersey underneath something blue on Sunday. If the Niners beat the Arizona Cardinals, that would lock the Minnesota Vikings into the third seed in the NFC playoffs and send the No. 6 Giants into a date in Minneapolis in the Wild Card Round.

And let’s face it, that’s a much better matchup for Big Blue. No team should want to tangle with the 49ers right now. Despite being on their third starting quarterback of the season, the Niners have won nine straight games thanks to a suffocating defense led by potential Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa. More on that in a smidge.

Here’s a look at why the Giants should want to play the Vikings and why they should be happy if the 49ers are someone else’s problem:

Giants versus Vikings? Skol! Sure, Minnesota beat the Giants earlier this season. But it took a 61-yard field goal in the waning seconds to secure a 27-24 victory at US Bank Stadium. The Vikings, 12-4 entering Week 18, certainly seem beatable. The Giants should feel like they bungled the Week 16 clash and should be confident they could beat Minnesota in a playoff game.

The Vikings have a minus-19 point differential, crazy for a 12-win team. As a for-instance, the 49ers (12-4) have a point differential of plus-148.

Blame the Vikings defense, which is porous enough, points-wise, to offer a real opportunity to Daniel Jones, who is having his best season, and the rest of the Giants offense. The Vikes are 31st in total defense, scoring defense and passing defense. Only the Bears have allowed more than the 25.9 points per game the Vikings have surrendered, and the Bears are 3-13.

Of course, Minnesota didn’t win all those games by giving up scads of points. They scored plenty, too, and that’s what makes them challenging. They average 24.7 points, eighth in the NFL, and boast the finest receiver in football – Justin Jefferson. He leads the league in catches (124) and receiving yards (1,771) and could break Calvin Johnson’s single-season yardage record with a big day in Week 18. Jefferson would need 194 yards against the Bears Sunday, but who knows if he’ll be in the game long enough to get there.

Pro Bowler Kirk Cousins has thrown 28 touchdown passes. Dalvin Cook is enjoying his fourth straight season of 1,100-plus yards rushing and goes against a Giants defense that has allowed 5.3 yards per carry (31st in the NFL) and 144.8 rushing yards per game (28th).

The Vikings have had trouble on their offensive line and have given up 47 sacks, tied for the fifth-most in the NFL, so perhaps there would be a chance for a game-changing play on defense for someone like Kayvon Thibodeaux, who seems to be developing a knack for such things.

A San Francisco treat? Uh, no: Trey Lance got hurt. So did Jimmy Garoppolo. Mr. Irrelevant – the last pick in the draft – is now quarterbacking the 49ers. Yet Brock Purdy has kept them rolling. In his four starts, he has a 112.7 passer rating, which would easily lead the NFL extrapolated over a full season. Including a relief appearance, he’s thrown two TD passes in five straight games. He sure doesn’t look like a guy who just turned 23 and was not a coveted pick coming out of Iowa State.

He’s got uber-talent around him on offense, too, including 10-time Pro Bowl tackle Trent Williams, who anchors a line that has helped limit sacks – opponents have 27 this year, tied for fifth-best in football. Tight end George Kittle (nine TD catches) and do-it-all back Christian McCaffrey (1,801 scrimmage yards) are skill-position terrors. Samuel, who has been hurt but should be back this week, is another matchup nightmare. No wonder San Francisco has averaged 25.8 points per game overall and nearly 30 during their winning streak.

But the defense is the Niners’ strength. They are allowing just 16.5 points per game and have held opponents to just 78.8 yards rushing per contest. Might be tough for Saquon Barkley and Jones to get rolling.

Throwing against San Francisco might be a better option, since the Niners are 19th overall against the pass and have some inexperience in their secondary. But that means pocket-destroyer Bosa will be chasing Jones. Bosa leads the NFL with 17.5 sacks and is second with 18 tackles for loss. He’s got at least one sack in 13-of-16 games so far and is a constant disruption threat.

Surprisingly, the Niners stumbled on D last week against the Las Vegas Raiders. They won the game, 37-34, but QB Jarrett Stidham, making his first career start, led Las Vegas to 34 points and 500 yards of offense.

Was that a one-Sunday letdown or the beginning of a trend?