Wild Card Showdown: Giants vs. Vikings

by Ahaan Rungta · Betting & Props

This is the Wild Card Showdown: Giants vs Vikings! In what easily could be the most nail-biting game of the Wild Card round, Daniel Jones makes his playoff debut, and Kirk Cousins gets a shot at his first home playoff game as a Minnesota Viking. With just about every star for both teams a full-go, we are in for plenty of opportunities for fantasy success and player props! That’s why we’re here to break it down. Here are our picks, key matchups, and fantasy studs and duds for the Giants vs. Vikings.

Key Injuries

New York Giants

  • WR Isaiah Hodgins (PROBABLE)

For the majority of the week, the Giants were the only playoff team in the NFL to list no players on their injury report. Wideout Isaiah Hodgins picked up an injury during Saturday’s practice but is expected to play.

Minnesota Vikings

  • CB Cameron Dantzler (QUESTIONABLE)
  • RB/KR Kene Nwangwu (QUESTIONABLE)
  • S Harrison Smith (QUESTIONABLE)

Star safety Harrison Smith is expected to play, while cornerback Cameron Dantzler is dealing with an ankle injury and a personal issue that has him in serious doubt to play.

Betting Lines and Trends

  • Best ATS line on New York Giants: +3 at FanDuel (-114)
  • The Best ATS line on Minnesota Vikings: -2.5 at DraftKings (-115)
  • Best total line on OVER: 47.5 at FanDuel (-115)
  • The best total line on UNDER: 48 at DraftKings (-110)

New York Giants

  • 13-4 ATS overall this season, an NFL-best.
  • As a starter in the NFL, Daniel Jones is 17-7 ATS on the road, 26-15 ATS as an underdog, and 16-5 as a road underdog.

Minnesota Vikings

  • Have been involved in 11 one-score games this season, an NFL record.
  • Kirk Cousins is 2-8 ATS when his opponent has an extra week of rest. This is not applicable to the Giants this weekend. However, it is noteworthy that New York rested all their starts in Week 18, so the primary unit does have an extra week of rest.

Game notes

  • Per Bet Labs Sports, since 2003, teams that had a regular season cover rate of 70-percent or better but were not favorites in a playoff game have gone 7-3-1 ATS in those games.
  • Over 60-percent of the public action has been on the over on the total (47.5), but the line has not moved.

Matchups: Team Statistics

Below, we list the NFL ranks for each team in their defensive units and offensive lines to identify where the strengths and weaknesses are to utilize for potential micro-advantages. The DVOA ranks come via Football Outsiders, and the win rate metric is via ESPN. This is done by utilizing player tracking from NFL Next Gen Stats.

The two statistical standouts we will target are:

The Poor Vikings Pass Defense

The Minnesota secondary is weak, and they don’t win often rushing the passer to help alleviate that concern. That is why, since coming off their bye in Week 8, the Vikings have allowed 171 receptions (most in the NFL), 2,138 receiving yards (No. 2-most), and 10 receiving touchdowns (No. 9-most) to wide receivers. Their 28.0-percent quarterback pressure rate in that span also ranks No. 30.

The Outstanding Giants Pass Rush

The Giants’ secondary continues to be weak, allowing pass-catchers to thrive, but their elite ability on win-rushing the passer can also trouble pocket passers. This unit is led by rookie sensation Kayvon Thibodeaux. That is why, since coming off their bye in Week 10, the Giants have posted a 41.9-percent quarterback pressure rate, No. 2-highest in the NFL in that span. The Vikings will have trouble responding to this with their pass blocking which ranks No. 22 in win rate.

The aim is to utilize one of the aforementioned mismatches: the Giants rushing the passer and winning against a soft Vikings offensive line. If the Giants are to pressure the quarterback often in this game, it would be helpful to get insights into Cousins’ tendencies in this offense when under pressure.

Data Analysis Plus

For this, we used play-by-play data from PlayerProfiler’s Data Analysis Plus tool to pull Cousins’ statistics on snaps where he was pressured, since the acquisition of T.J. Hockenson in Week 9. Under these circumstances, Cousins faced exactly 99 snaps under pressure. The results were as follows: one quarterback rush, 22 sacks, 40-76 passing (52.6-percent) with one interception.
Of those 76 passes, nine were throwaways (no identified target); the other throws were distributed as follows:

  • WR Justin Jefferson: 24 targets (2 in the red zone)
  • TE T.J. Hockenson: 17 targets (3 in the red zone)
  • WR Adam Thielen: 7 targets (0 in the red zone)
  • WR K.J. Osborn: 7 targets (0 in the red zone)
  • TE Johnny Mundt: 4 targets (0 in the red zone)
  • RB Dalvin Cook: 4 targets (0 in the red zone)
  • RB Alexander Mattison: 2 targets (1 in the red zone)
  • WR Jalen Reagor: 1 target (0 in the red zone)
  • FB C.J. Ham: 1 target (1 in the red zone)

Overall, it has been tough to read Cousins when he is scrambling under pressure recently. However, it is noteworthy that the red zone target leader in these scenarios is the newest member of the team, Hockenson. If you want to go after an “anytime touchdown” prop for Minnesota, perhaps Hocksenson (+210) is the best value on the board.

New York Giants: Fantasy Outlook

The Giants have been headlined by three primary fantasy storylines:

Daniel Jones’ breakout

This season under new head coach Brian Daboll, Jones has turned into one of the NFL’s more impressive offensive leaders. Despite multiple losses to his pass-catching core, Jones has earned a path to the playoffs, thanks to 0.57 fantasy points per dropback (No. 7 among NFL quarterbacks), 18.4 fantasy points per game (No. 10), a 64.3-percent completion percentage in the red zone (No. 3), and 75.7-percent True Completion Percentage (No. 1). Jones continues to be a fantastic rusher as well. His 7.5 carries per game, 1.6 red zone carries per game, and seven rushing touchdowns all rank top five at quarterback.

Saquon Barkley’s healthy resurgence 

With minimal injury concerns nagging the former No. 2 overall pick, Barkley has thrived as a workhorse. His 80.1-percent opportunity share (No. 3 among NFL running backs), 10 goal-line carries (No. 4), 1,312 rushing yards (No. 4), 17.8 fantasy points per game (No. 5), and 17.2-percent target share (No. 5) already make him viable fantasy chalk, especially with the Giants’ Vegas implied team total set at 22.5. Against a mediocre Vikings rush defense, his 86 evaded tackles (No. 6), 18 Breakaway Runs (No. 2), and 1,014 yards created (No. 5) are also signs that he has the talent to break off huge plays, giving him overall RB1 ceiling.

Isaiah Hodgins’ Emergence 

After wide receiver Sterling Shepard went down for the season with an ACL tear, there wasn’t much in the fantasy-viable landscape in New York outside of Barkley and the occasional Darius Slayton peak week. The recent acquisition Isaiah Hodgins has changed that. He has at least 37 receiving yards in five straight weeks and a touchdown in four of those games. In each of those four weeks, Hodgins finished as the fantasy WR22 or better. His best game of the season came against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 16 when he popped off for eight receptions on 11 targets for 89 yards (104 air yards) and a touchdown.

Minnesota Vikings: Fantasy Outlook

The Vikings have a plethora of fantasy weapons, but they too have a few storylines worth highlighting in this elimination game.

Justin Jefferson’s Generational Season 

The third-year superstar wideout posted 185 targets (No. 1 among NFL wide receivers), 28 red zone targets (No. 1), 1,935 yards (No. 3), 26 deep targets (No. 9), 1,809 receiving yards (No. 1), 630 yards after catch (No. 1), nine touchdowns (No. 4), and 21.7 fantasy points per game (No. 2). This season, Jefferson has ten games of at least 100 receiving yards, including a 16-target, 12-reception, 1-touchdown, 133-yard performance against the Giants in Week 16. However, it is of note that he was primarily covered by Fabian Moreau in that game, not Adoree’ Jackson, who is on track to return for this matchup. Jefferson’s last two games have only netted 10 total targets for five receptions and 53 yards.

T. J. Hockenson Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

T.J. Hockenson’s Dominant Role 

The former Detroit Lions tight end was traded to Kevin O’Connell’s offense and immediately became a fantasy star. Hockenson has played 10 games for the Vikings. Barring Week 18 where he only ran 12 routes and was subbed out for rest, he has drawn at least six targets in every single game and has averaged 1.4 red zone targets per game and 55.9 receiving yards per game.

Betting Leans: Game Spread & Total

Spread Lean: Giants +3. With two teams that are relatively even, I’ll gladly take the points on the underdog since I feel this game should be closer to a pick ‘em. The Giants are 10-2 against the spread as an underdog this season and the mismatch we found—New York’s pass rush against a weak Vikings offensive line—could be the difference. This season, the Vikings have played eight games against defenses that are top ten on the season in pressure rate like the Giants. In those contests, they were 3-4-1 against the spread. Brian Daboll’s Cinderella story continues, and the Vikings’ unsustainable finishing ability in one-score games finally runs out of steam.

Total Lean: Under 48. This season, Vikings games have gone 11-6-0 to the over, the best over rate in the NFL. However, don’t be fooled—the books aren’t moving the line upward this week. Giants games are only 2-5 to the over when they are a road underdog, and their preference to control the clock with Saquon Barkley, and trust their defense to get to the nervous Kirk Cousins, should back a slow-paced game. Both defenses are nearly fully healthy. This is a good spot to fade the public, who are skewing their bets to the over.

Sportsbook Player Prop

Player Prop (1u): Saquon Barkley OVER 99.5 rushing+receiving yards (-114, FanDuel)

Don’t overthink it—Barkley has been a workhorse all season long with no injury designation entering the playoffs. The Giants will seek to live and die with their best weapon. Barkley has cleared this line in eight of his 15 games getting at least 50-percent of the snaps, including 133 yards against the Vikings. Of those games, he has cleared this line in seven of 11 games where the Giants score at least 20 points. Vegas expects them to score 22.5.

Regardless of the game script, Barkley’s opportunities should be steady throughout the game. If New York plays from ahead, he’ll control the clock on the ground. If they play from behind, he’ll be targeted heavily. The Giants are 7-2-1 straight up when Barkley earns at least 20 touches. Fantasy gamers should trust Daboll to feed the beast against the helpless Vikings’ defense.

Pick ‘Ems & Parlays

Underdog Pick ‘Em Slip (0.25u)

Head over to Underdog Fantasy to tail this two-leg correlated same-game parlay (+200). New users can utilize promo code UNDERWORLD to gain a 100% deposit match up to $100 upon entry.

The thesis on this is pretty simple: we are going after props that pose pick ‘em value relative to sportsbooks under one game script. For this slip, I am buying the Giants to produce offense while the Vikings have to play their best weapons in a close game.

  • Barkley has scored a touchdown in 10 of his 15 games getting at least 50-percent of the snaps. He has been a red zone hog, and this prop is rightfully juiced up to -150 on some sportsbooks. Barkley does not have a receiving touchdown yet this season, so it is unlikely we get a touchdown of a non-rushing variety.
  • Smith has only played in one game with Hockenson on the roster. It was Week 18 in a meaningless game against the Bears where he played 45-percent of the snaps, ran 24-percent of the routes, and drew three targets. He still did not clear this line. Expect Smith to be an afterthought in this offense after his poor efficiency earlier in the season that prompted a trade for Hockenson. Even if he sees the field, production should be hard to come by since the Giants have allowed the No. 18-highest yards per reception to tight ends since their bye.

Sportsbook Longshot (0.25u): FanDuel Bet & Get Promo

If you haven’t already joined services like FanDuel Sportsbook if available in your state, waste no time and head over to the #promo-codes channel of the PlayerProfiler Discord to get linked up. Throughout the playoffs, books like FanDuel will be running promotions that you can take advantage of to get an edge.

For example, you can partake in the NFL Wild Card Bet & Get promotion where you can create same-game parlays for games in the first round and get bonuses in free bets based on the exposure you placed on the bets, even if your parlay loses. I’ll be throwing a 0.25-unit sprinkle on this five-leg play (+435).

  • Isaiah Hodgins 25+ receiving yards
  • Daniel Bellinger 25+ receiving yards
  • Saquon Barkley 50+ rushing yards
  • Saquon Barkley anytime touchdown
  • Giants +14.5

Final Prediction

We are essentially getting exposure to some other Giants to produce offense against a Vikings defense that is capable of losing in many ways. We end up with heavy exposure on the Giants in this contest, targeting their best weapons in a one-and-done situation.

If you are betting on the NFL playoffs and/or tailing our plays, we recommend continuing to practice intelligent unit management and only playing what your bankroll can handle. Given our unit assignments above, we will profit on our plays as long as our primary builder (Barkley 100+ yards) hits, but we could win bigger if one of our other entries also cashes. Either way, enjoy what should be another fantastic contest in Minnesota!

Score Prediction: Giants 23, Vikings 16