10 issues to observe on Wild Card Weekend

10 things to watch on Wild Card Weekend


Since 2007, the Giants have made the playoffs simply 4 instances, with two of them leading to a Lombardi Trophy. The franchise has 4 Tremendous Bowl titles for the reason that NFL-AFL merger, and all 4 groups have a serious part in widespread – all of them had dominant defenses who received after the quarterback. This historical past doesn’t go unnoticed by defensive coordinator Wink Martindale, who makes use of the historic Large Blue defenses as inspiration for this yr’s unit.

“We all know the place the usual is, and we wish to hold elevating the bar,” Martindale stated. “That is why I hold referring to the followers, I feel they like seeing it. They like seeing an attacking model protection and ones that may hit the quarterback, We have had 19 completely different guys this yr on the roster that is received a sack. That is loopy. It is also as soon as once more a credit score to the gamers and their coaches.”

Martindale has spoken in latest weeks about how they had been capable of construct a “playoff protection”. They’ve accomplished this by staying constant all season, together with every member of the unit taking a selfless, team-first strategy each week. However when speaking to the media Thursday, Martindale shared that it was the primary assembly in opposition to the Vikings that actually confirmed him what his unit was able to.

“I feel that was the start of, I informed the coaches and I informed Dex (Lawrence), you’ll be able to ask Dex and Leo (Williams), I stated we have got a playoff protection right here, guys,” stated the defensive coordinator. “Simply hold enjoying it one play at a time and that is when it was 24-(16). That is after we had been down, that is earlier than the offense scored. Then I went on the again of the aircraft, and I informed them, I stated, “we have got a playoff protection, guys. We received beat by a buzzer beater at half-court”. That is what it was. The largest factor on this league is you by no means let one sport beat you twice. So, you keep constant.”


So much has been made this season concerning the Giants’ huge receiver corps. The three main receivers had been both buried on the depth chart or not even on the workforce at the beginning of the season. Darius Slayton (724 yards), Richie James (569) and Isaiah Hodgins (351) have all performed important roles within the workforce’s success, particularly over the past month of the common season. Whereas they is perhaps gaining recognition from the media solely in latest weeks, your entire WR room has been performing every time they’ve gotten an opportunity since early within the yr.

“First off, these guys – they put a number of time in learning and prepping themselves, getting on the identical web page with the quarterback room,” offensive coordinator Mike Kafka stated. “I feel (huge receivers) coach (Mike) Groh has accomplished an ideal job of getting these guys collectively as properly, teaching the basics and the methods that we stress…

“While you’re enjoying soccer, you wish to play with emotion, and also you wish to play with a sure angle. I feel these guys convey it, they carry it to apply every single day and so they’ve been bringing all of it season lengthy.”

Hodgins did not even be part of the workforce till November 2, when the Giants claimed him off waivers from the Buffalo Payments. The second-year receiver was a sixth-round choose of the Payments again in 2020 and spent two seasons with Brian Daboll and Joe Schoen in Buffalo. It solely took Hodgins a number of weeks to essentially get going within the Giants offense, as he caught a landing cross in 4 of the final 5 video games heading into Week 18. The 24-year-old had the very best sport of his profession in opposition to the Vikings in Week 16, catching eight passes for 89 yards and a landing whereas going up in opposition to Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson.

“Isaiah is a type of guys that basically may be very reliable,” stated the offensive coordinator. “He is a tricky child. He can play a number of spots – inside and outdoors, so he has some flexibility inside the offense. I feel he is similar to a number of these guys in that room, he is gained the belief of Daniel and so they have a very good factor going proper now. We’ll hold persevering with to construct that…

“I feel Isaiah, he is a aggressive soccer participant. I do not suppose it was essentially for that sport specifically. You see it on tape, he competes versus all corners and linebackers and safeties, within the run sport. He is only a aggressive participant.”


Martindale and the Giants protection went into the Christmas Eve matchup with the aim of limiting All-Professional huge receiver Justin Jefferson. The 23-year-old receiver, whom Martindale has described as “a prime two receiver within the league, and he is not two,” completed the sport with 12 receptions for 133 yards and a landing, together with the 17-yard reception to arrange Joseph’s game-winning discipline aim.

Jefferson ended the yr because the NFL’s prime receiver with a whopping 128 receptions for 1,809 yards. He had eight receiving touchdowns, with an extra rating on the bottom, on his method to incomes his third Professional Bowl choice in as many seasons. He seems to be properly on his method to his third All-Professional choice, as properly. Whereas Jefferson will stay the protection’s give attention to Sunday, Martindale maintained practical expectations for holding the tremendous gifted receiver.

“Nice gamers make nice performs and 18 made an ideal play, he made two of them…” stated the defensive coordinator. “Let’s make no mistake about it, you’ll be able to’t take away 18. You attempt to restrict him, however you’ll be able to’t take away from him. I feel I stated it the final time, he is one of many prime two receivers and he isn’t quantity two on this league. It will be an ideal problem.”

Tight finish T.J. Hockenson additionally did a number of harm within the final assembly. Hockenson matched Jefferson with a whopping 16 targets, ending with a team-high 13 receptions for 109 yards and two touchdowns. It was the second sport this season that the tight finish had over 100 receiving yards and two touchdowns, with the primary one coming in Week 4 whereas nonetheless a member of the Detroit Lions. He recorded 86 receptions for 914 yards and 6 touchdowns throughout 17 video games with the 2 groups and earned his second Professional Bowl choice in 4 seasons.

The Giants’ protection acquired a major increase on New 12 months’s Day when Xavier McKinney returned to the secondary. McKinney had final appeared in Week 8 earlier than a hand harm compelled him to overlook the following seven contests. In his first sport again in over two months, the third-year security picked up proper the place he left off previous to the harm. Towards the Colts, McKinney completed second on the workforce with seven tackles (4 solo) together with a cross breakup. McKinney has surrendered simply seven receptions for 47 yards on 10 targets this yr, good for an opposing passer score in opposition to of 40.4, based on PFF.

“Hockenson is without doubt one of the finest tight ends within the league and it confirmed final time we performed him,” McKinney informed reporters this week. “He is actually good. He is a very good tight finish so we have simply received to be ready. I’ve received to be ready to have the ability to have that matchup in opposition to him. I am excited for it, it’ll be enjoyable. So like I stated, I will be prepared.”


Whereas a number of the eye revolving the Vikings leans in the direction of their offense, their protection can’t be ignored. After a few common seasons, eight-time Professional Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson has returned to his outdated self this yr. Beginning all 17 video games, Peterson has registered 5 interceptions and 15 cross breakups, each of that are essentially the most he is had in a season since 2012, simply his second yr within the NFL. The 32-year-old, who had a type of interceptions in opposition to the Giants on Christmas Eve, has a passer score allowed of simply 66.8.

“He is a gifted participant, most likely going to be a Corridor of Famer and All-Professional, perennial All-Professional, everywhere in the discipline,” Kafka stated concerning the 12-year veteran. “He makes performs. He is a sensible, instinctive participant so we have now to be sensible with what we do and ensure our guys are detailed with what issues we wish to current that protection.”

The Vikings protection additionally boasts one of many prime edge rusher duos within the league in Za’Darius Smith and Danielle Hunter. Smith picked up 10 sacks and 24 quarterback hits in 16 video games this season, whereas Hunter registered 10.5 sacks and 22 quarterback hits in 17 video games. Within the first assembly between the 2 groups, Hunter had two sacks and 4 quarterback hits whereas Smith added three quarterback hits. In accordance with Kafka, preserving an in depth eye on each cross rushers shall be one of many offense’s prime priorities this weekend.

“You bought to know the place he is at each single play,” the offensive coordinator stated about Smith. “Between him and Danielle Hunter. These guys are gifted edge rushers production-wise. They do a very good job within the run sport as properly. You bought to know the place these guys are at on each single snap.”

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