A Rookie QB against one of the best defensive units in the League? Adam Chernoff can only see one winner!
Results have been difficult to come by early in the season for readers of this column. The current record after four weeks sits at 2-4 (-2.55x). For the second week in a row, I will focus on a single wager as we work our way back into positive figures.
Giants Secondary Still Awful
There are a couple of different ways to handicap the Minnesota Vikings New York Giants game this week. I can go straight to Daniel Jones, or I go to why Kirk Cousins is not as bad as the market is making him out to be and the expected success for Minnesota this Sunday. Instead, I will continue where I left off last week pointing out the holes in the Giants secondary.
For the bettors that look at the scoreboard and fall victim to recency bias, seeing 24-3 likely suggests a strong defensive performance. However, I think it is important to highlight the fact that Case Keenum threw just 11 passes before being benched for Dwayne Haskins – who never had any practice time with the starting offense. Not only did this Giants defense get to play with a lead, but they got to face a rookie quarterback without practice time in his first ever NFL appearance – coming into the game cold without warning.
It is about as favourable of a position for an NFL defense to be in, so seeing 150 passing yards against is not an upgrade in my rankings by any stretch.
In fact, I can make a case for the Giants defense being downgraded even further losing inside linebacker Ryan Connelly for the season. The lost of Connelly gets paired with other starting linebackers Tae Davis and Alec Ogletree who remain on the injury report to begin practice this week and are questionable for the game. It was another week where the Giants went shopping to sign on new replacements to contract.
Great Spot For The Viks
From a perception standpoint, the market conditions could not be any more favourable for the Minnesota Vikings offense than what sets up in this game. Following a loss to the Chicago Bears, Kirk Cousins was trashed in the media by reporters – and teammates. Leaving the drama to stretch out until Wednesday before issuing an apology on behalf of the team to receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, this news is likely to carry into the weekend leading up to kickoff and continued to be fueled by the Diggs trade rumours.
However, this game is not about Cousins, Diggs nor Thielen. It is about the Giants who when completely healthy graded out at league average against the run.
Now with three new linebackers, the unit has to deal with the Vikings third-rated zone rushing scheme. Defending a zone running scheme as explosive as the Vikings requires discipline and speed – two things the Giants do not have among their defensive line nor backup linebackers who all lack continuity.
Generating pressure is also important to disrupt the timing of the rushing scheme, something the Giants do at the lowest rate in the league.
In terms of adjusted line yards, the Giants defensive line ranks 26th and has forced the sixth-fewest negative plays through four weeks.
The lack of downfield pressure also plays into Kirk Cousins who is likely to take a secondary role. Minnesota is rushing the football at the third-highest rate in one score situations, and to the dismay of many, the fourth-highest on second down and long situations. Whether it be Stefanski, Kubiak or Zimmer, plain and simple, there is little trust for the QB and all of the emphasis is going to Dalvin Cook out of the backfield.
Cousins has struggled both under pressure and from a clean pocket. However, he put together his strongest game against the Oakland Raiders. If you recall back to the handicap last week against the Giants, the main comparable for the New York defense was that of the Raiders.
The two teams share a couple of common traits.
They have equal overall cover grades (30th), struggle to generate pressure at nearly the same rate (Oakland 26th, New York 30th), and fail to generate negative plays (Oakland 18th, New York 25th). Cousins did not have to be effective in that game because Cook had so much success.
When Cook has success, it permits Cousins time in the pocket to make throws. Cousins, for the most part, has had his numbers marred by playing two of the best cover defenses in Chicago and Green Bay, but in games against Atlanta and Oakland, the offense worked. Now he and the Vikings defense get the most favourable matchup of the season off an embarrassment against Chicago with the Giants who are littered with injuries and replacement players.
This team will move the ball.
All the above aside, my favourite part about the handicap is Daniel Jones against the Minnesota Vikings defense. It is quite simple. The issue for Daniel Jones coming out of college was his reliance on the RPO and his willingness to force poor throws into tight coverage windows. Both of those issues exist here in his first two starts, but they are getting ignored because of the results. What I find most interesting is that last week without Barkley in the backfield, his numbers dipped considerably.
He threw more interceptions than completions on throws more than 10 yards down the field, his 10.1 intended air yards against the Buccaneers per throw dipped to 5.2 and his yards per attempt under pressure dipped from 7.0 to 3.7. As mentioned, when a QB is reliant on the run-pass option, not having the threat of a run makes it difficult to find comfort in the pocket. Despite the drastic change, the decision making remained the same.
For the second week in a row, Daniel Jones threw the third-highest rate of passes into coverage where the nearest defender was within one yard or less of the intended receiver. Yet, he was not penalized for doing so and finished the day with a comfortable victory on the scoreline.
This game is problematic for a couple of reasons.
Tampa Bay and Washington are both bottom seven defenses in the NFL. Minnesota ranks in the top eight. It is a clear step up in competition. But what Minnesota does exceptionally well is disguising their coverage and pressure.
The unit has a ton of continuity returning all but one of their starters from a year ago and enters the game healthy.
They have the personnel to play man coverage at one of the highest rates in the league but are extremely good at tackling. Jones began to concede all throws underneath against the Redskins, if the Vikings can disguise their zone coverage on early down, he will be forced into extremely short throws – if he can get the pass off. The second he reverts to his willingness to throw into tight coverage, he at a major disadvantage against Minnesota.
This matchup has all the potential not just to be Daniel Jones worst performance as a starter thus far, but likely one of his worst performances all season.
Whether more value is put on the Vikings offence matchup against the Giants defense, or the Vikings defense against the Giants offense, this is as well rounded of a handicap as will be seen over the course of the season. At anything less than -6.5, there is value betting on the Minnesota Vikings.
- Minnesota Vikings -5 (1.87). Risking 1.30x