Vikings vs. Giants: 5 players to watch on Christmas Eve

This Christmas Eve, the Minnesota Vikings are playing host to the New York Giants after they just completed the biggest comeback in NFL history one week ago.

The Vikings are 11-3 and are slated to host at least one playoff game since they won the division, but this game still holds plenty of weight. The Vikings are trying to hold off the 49ers for the number two seed and, even though the odds are slim, there still is a chance the Vikings can snag the number one seed in the NFC.

Let’s look ahead to this week’s matchup for some players to keep an eye on.

Justin Jefferson

Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) celebrates a first down against the New England Patriots during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

This is an easy one and it should be a staple every single week. Enjoy these moments every time the Vikings step on the field. Justin Jefferson is a special player and he’s only 23. He plays with ease and has a savviness about him that makes him so easy to root for. When he steps on the field Saturday, he’ll continue his pursuit of the NFL receiving yardage record currently held by WR Calvin Johnson.

Calvin Johnson’s record-setting 2012: 1,964 yards
Justin Jefferson 2022 year to date:1,623 yards

We’ll see how much ground Jefferson can gain on Saturday with only a few games to go.

Duke Shelley

Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver DeVante Parker (1) catches a pass as Minnesota Vikings cornerback Duke Shelley (20) defends during the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings’ cornerback room has taken quite the hit this season with injuries. They’ve lost Akayleb Evans and Andrew Booth to injured reserve and Cameron Dantzler just recently returned. The depth has been tested this season, but there has been sort of an unsung hero that’s emerged in Duke Shelley.

Shelley has played really well for the Vikings when they’ve needed him, including being the top-graded player per PFF against the Colts. On Saturday, he will get another opportunity to show off against the Giants. The Giants’ wide receiver room has taken a hit this season as they’ve lost a couple of important pieces for the season, but they still have some players who can contribute in  Darius Slayton and Isaiah Hodgins. If Shelley can build off his week 16 performance, the Vikings should be in good hands.

Brian Asamoah

Dec 4, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Brian Asamoah II (33) leaps over the celebration pile late during the fourth quarter after an interception by safety Camryn Bynum (24) off New York Jets quarterback Mike White (5) sealed the victory at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

If you haven’t noticed over the last few weeks, rookie linebacker Brian Asamoah has started to take some snaps away from veteran linebacker Jordan Hicks. Sure, there are going to be moments where Asamoah makes some rookie mistakes, but he plays with a lot of speed and intensity that this Vikings defense can lack at times.

As the Vikings get closer to the postseason, they’ll need their rookies to step up. Games like Saturday afternoon against the Giants are great opportunities for guys like Asamoah to get live reps and learn.

Kirk Cousins

It feels odd to say that you should watch the starting quarterback this weekend, but Cousins has been on fire to start December and deserves the praise he’s been getting. The Giants have one of the worst defenses in the NFL and could also be without cornerback Adoree’ Jackson and defensive end Leonard Williams. Look for the Vikings to try and start fast, so they don’t have to try and complete another comeback.

Dalvin Cook

When Kevin O’Connell became head coach, many wondered how they’d utilize Dalvin Cook. Through 16 games, Dalvin Cook has had a quiet but efficient season. He ranks 6th in the NFL in rushing yards (1,045 yards) and has been the spark that helps the Vikings get going in games where they are trailing.

Week 10 vs. Buffalo Bills: 81-yard TD run
Week 15Indianapolis Colts, a screen pass for a 64-yard TD

This week he may not have to be the spark but rather the tone-setter, as the Giants are one of the worst rushing defenses in the NFL. Keep an eye on Cook this week as it’s a great opportunity to take advantage of a porous defense.

Story originally appeared on Vikings Wire