New York Giants’ Quest vs. Minnesota Vikings is Stopping Justin Jefferson

Pretty much all of the NFL’s postseason award winners are known as we enter Week 16 of the NFL season. The Offensive Player of the Year award is expected to go to Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who leads the league in receptions, receiving yards, and average yards per game, 115.9.

Think about that last stat for a moment, Giants fans.

A guy who catches the ball for a living is averaging more yardage per game than Saquon Barkley (21.0), Darius Slayton (48.5) and Richie James (28.8) put together. And those are the Giants’ top three in terms of receiving yards. Add up all the yardage those three have combined for this season, and their total of 1,328 yards does not come close to matching Jefferson’s 1,623 receiving yards. He is on pace to finish with 1,971 yards, which would break Calvin Johnson’s record of 1,964 yards from 2012.

Jefferson is a -200 favorite to win Offensive Player of the Year. One of the few players who can theoretically catch him in the yardage category is Stefon Diggs of the Buffalo Bills, although that would take one heck of an epic performance. Diggs, on the board at +10000 for Offensive Player of the Year — despite ranking second among all NFL receivers with 10 TD receptions — is 324 yards behind Jefferson entering Buffalo’s game Saturday against the Chicago Bears in frigid conditions in the Windy City.

Jefferson will not have to deal with the weather aside from his ride to U.S. Bank Field in Minneapolis, where the high temperature for Saturday’ Giants-Vikings tilt  is expected to be 4 degrees Fahrenheit … outside.

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That stadium is an indoor facility, and Jefferson can play in short sleeves if he so chooses, which could cause problems for a Giants pass defense that allows 216.9 passing yards per game. Luckily for Giants quarterback Daniel Jones, the Vikings have a defense ranked dead last in the 32 team NFL in pass defense, allowing 399.2 yards per game.

How Should Bettors Approach the Game?

If you are betting this one, you have to look at the receivers as a starting point. That’s no matter how cringeworthy that is for a Giants fan base wondering when Kenny Golladay will show exactly why the Giants are paying him $18 million.

Golladay’s next TD catch will be his first of the season and first in his generally miserable two-year Giants career.

Yeah, $18 million doesn’t get you what it once did, eh? But that is a small problem to have compared to what the Jets have on their hands today with Zach Wilson, who may have thrown his last pass for GanGrene, ahem, Gang Green.

Daniel Jones has not thrown for two touchdowns since Nov. 13 against the Houston Texans, and he has not thrown three TD passes since 2019. That’s when he was a rookie and threw four of ’em against both the Jets and the Lions. So, yeah, he is overdue.

If you are gambling this one and playing the TD passes and TD receptions game, you need to know that FanDuel has Slayton listed at +2000, James at +2400, and Daniel Bellinger at +2800 to have two or more TDs. James leads the Giants with three TD receptions, and he had zero until Nov. 20 against Detroit. Jefferson is +450 to score twice or more, the lowest line on the TDs scored board aside from Dalvin Cook (+330) and Barkley (+400).

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Jones is +475 to throw for 300 or more yards and +1000 (at DraftKings) to have that total at 350 yards or higher, which would represent his season-high. He has reached 300 only once, against Detroit. But he will be facing a Vikings pass defense that has given up 21 rushing TDs and 20 passing TDs. Last week against Indianapolis, they allowed only one TD pass while falling behind 33-0 at the half. That’s before staging the biggest comeback in NFL history to defeat the Colts 39-36 to improve the NFC’s second-best record to 11-3.

In fact, that 11-3 record is better than everyone’s with the exception of Philadelphia (13-1), although Buffalo and Kansas City are sporting the same mark. That being the case, The Vikings are +2500 to win the Super Bowl, while the Bills (+330), the Eagles (+475) and Chiefs (+550) have waaaaaaay shorter odds to be the last team standing, which means oddsmakers ain’t buying what they are selling.

It is because of their defense.

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Do The Giants Actually Have An Offense?

Pounding Barkley up the middle too much was one of the lack of creativity concerns that had coach Brian Daboll in everyone’s crosshairs during the 0-3-1 stretch that turned a 7-2 record into a 7-5-1 record. Last week’s 20-12 victory over Washington featured only 160 yards of passing from Jones, and 18 rushes for 87 yards from Barkley. It was a game that left everyone talking about defensive lineman Kayvon Thibodeaux, who forced a fumble and recovered it for a touchdown.

He does not have a line to be the first touchdown scorer. But the Giants’ defense/special teams is +3500, which is a better bet than Golladay at +6500, one would imagine.

For Barkley, last week’s ground gains were his highest total since rushing for 152 yards five weeks earlier against Houston, and his 33 receiving yards were his most since he had 36 on Oct. 9 against Green Bay in London. After being exceptionally creative in the early part of the season, Daboll has grown predictable, and will be tested by a Vikings team led by coach Kevin O’Connell, who was a game-planner on the field when he played for the Patriots, Lions, Dolphins, Jets, and Chargers.

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Former quarterbacks have a read on current quarterbacks, which will make it extra interesting to see how the Vikings defend a depleted Giants receiving corps that was led, predictably, by Barkley and Slayton catching three passes apiece. Barkley was targeted a team-high eight times, and the Giants made it work even though the Commanders knew what was coming.

That victory set up a scenario in which the Giants can qualify for the playoffs with a win, along with losses by two of their three closest pursuers, Washington, Detroit and Seattle. The Vikings are favored by 3 1/2 at some books and 4 at others, and 71% of spread handle at Draft Kings has come in on Minnesota as of Friday afternoon. Moneyline splits are 66% on the Vikings (-195) and 34% on the Giants (+165).

Western New York’s Team

The Bills are drawing only 19% of spread bets against the Bears, who are 9-point underdogs against a Buffalo team that has won five in a row, but has failed to cover in three of four. Chicago has covered only once in its last six games and has lost seven in a row, and 93% of moneyline bets are coming in at DraftKings on the Bills at -380.

The player we are eyeballing is Diggs, who had ceded the spotlight to Jefferson after keeping pace with him through the first two-thirds of the season. Diggs is +370 at FanDuel to have at least 100 receiving yards and +205 for the same wager at DraftKings. (Your weekly reminder to shop around). If you like him for 125-plus yards, he is +880 at Fan Duel and +475 at DraftKings.

Diggs is +2800 at DraftKings to score three or more touchdowns, something he has not done since Dec. 28, 2020. So, yes, he is due. And since he wants to at least be in the same conversation as Jefferson, we would not put it past him, especially against backups.

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