Monday Night Preview  

 

'Monday Night Football': Five things to watch

As we mentioned on Friday's "Around The League Podcast," the Giants and Vikings deserve a little credit.

Tonight's "Monday Night Football" tilt has all the makings of an epic stinker, but Minnesota (1-4) and New York (0-6) have gone out of their way to pack in some intrigue.

Why should you watch? How about the debut of Josh Freeman, the Vikings' newly acquired quarterback who can steal away the starting job for good with a promising showing against Big Blue.

Then there's the winless Giants, who went out and signed the enigmatic Peyton Hillis to anchor a backfield short on help. Sexy stuff, right?

Listen, we're into it. And here's what we'll be watching on Monday night:

1. This could be a fireworks show. The Giants' defense has bled yardage and points all season, and Freeman -- for all his ill qualities -- has a knack for pushing the ball downfield. We haven't seen much from Greg Jennings this season, but Freeman's big arm could benefit the veteran receiver along with rookie Cordarrelle Patterson. Besides, New York's secondary is a mess. Cornerback Prince Amukamara has his moments, but quarterbacks have feasted on Terrell Thomas to the tune of a 126.9 passer rating.

2. Eli Manning has been an interception machine, but the Giants quarterback faces a Vikings defense compromised by the loss of safety Harrison Smith. Not a single player in Minnesota's secondary has netted a positive grade this season from Pro Football Focus, but the problems are at every level of this defense. Last year's Vikings allowed 79 points through five games. This year's crew has given up 158 over the same stretch.

3. With fleet-footed David Wilson wandering Gotham in a bunny suit and older-than-nature Brandon Jacobs reportedly a no-go, the Giants are down to Hillis and Michael Cox in the backfield. For Minnesota, there's a sense that the solar system's best runner, Adrian Peterson, is off to a slow start, but that's not so. He has more rushing attempts (102), yards (483) and touchdowns (five) on the ground than he did at this point last season. We expect Peterson to see a heavy workload as the Vikings aim to keep things simple for Freeman out of the gate. A.P. leads all backs with a 92.8 Elusive Rating, per PFF, but the Giants -- despite their shaky secondary -- have been serviceable against the run. Something's gotta give.

4. One more note on Manning: While Peyton has enjoyed one of the finest seasons known to man, Eli has recorded the most giveaways (17) by any player through six games since 1991. The second man -- and also the fourth -- on that list won't please Vikings fans: Daunte Culpepper, with 16 turnovers in 2002 and another 15 in 2005.

5. This game features the worst combined winning percentage between "Monday Night Football" opponents in Week 7 or later in NFL history. The second ugliest? Way back in 1975, when the 1-11 Chargers played the 3-9 Jets. Take heart, friends, you're viewing a slice of history tonight.

The latest "Around The League Podcast" recapped every Week 7 game.

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