Looking at this week's matchup between the New York Giants and the Minnesota Vikings on Monday, it looks pretty simple to the naked eye. With their running game hit by injuries to RBs Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen, the Giants will have to pass the ball to win against the ninth-ranked pass defense in the NFL.
That won't be easy.
The Vikings are allowing just 211 yards per game through the air over the first three games, and it is a legit stat. After Marcus Mariota passed for 252 yards in the opener against them, they have held Aaron Rodgers to 180 yards and Cam Newton to 201 yards, respectfully.
Minnesota has put enormous pressure on quarterbacks with a league-leading 15 sacks and are second in the NFL in takeaways behind Kansas City (who was buoyed by Ryan Fitzpatrick's six INTs last week) with nine. They are a league-best +8 in the give/take category on the year.
The Giants, on the other hand, have seven giveaways to just one takeaway. They cannot afford to be sloppy in this game. QB Eli Manning has three INTs and has fumbled four times, losing one.
Manning has been very efficient for the most part this year, completing 71 percent of his passes for 925 yards and four touchdowns. His inexplicable interception at the end of the Redskins game last week is the only thing keeping the Giants from the ranks of the undefeated this season.
Despite popular opinion, Manning has been protected well, sacked just six times and hit a league-low seven. That success will be put to the test in this game against the Vikings' pass rush. Left tackle Ereck Flowers has battled but struggled, and Bobby Hart is still very much of an unknown at right tackle, playing in place of the injured Marshall Newhouse.
Manning will aim to get the ball out as quickly as possible and won't have the luxury of play action since the running game is banged up and will likely be ineffective.
With Jennings (thumb) either out or limited and Vereen (triceps) on injured reserve, the Giants will rely on Orleans Darkwa, Bobby Rainey and rookie Paul Perkins to move the ball on the ground.
The Vikings are allowing 3.5 yards per carry, so the gauntlet has been thrown for this group. The Giants averaged just 3.9 yards on the ground with Jennings and Vereen. Darkwa has 52 rushes on 11 carries (4.7) and Rainey and Perkins have yet to rush the ball this season.
That leaves Manning with limited options. He does have a stable of excellent receiving options in WRs Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz and rookie Sterling Shepard. It will be up to them to make enough plays if the Giants are make a case in this game.
It can be done, but it all depends on giving Manning the operating space to deals with. The Vikings have held opposing quarterbacks to a 69.5 QBR this year, and Manning has a 98.1 QBR. Something's gotta give.