Vikings are tonic for Eli, winless Giants

While all eyes are focused on his big brother this weekend, Eli Manning is staring down a big game of his own. The New York Giants are winless, and no team wants to wear that black eye into late October.

A team coached by Tom Coughlin and led astray by Manning, a team that pair guided to two Super Bowl wins, never figured to be in this pathetic predicament.

But the Giants are 0-6 and 6 feet under, buried by the New York media as Coughlin answers questions about benching his star quarterback.

The suffering has to stop at some point, and why not against the 1-4 Minnesota Vikings? It’s a matchup that deserves to be scheduled with eight other games on a Sunday morning, but it’s isolated Monday in prime time, so the ESPN viewers will suffer, too.

Not even Jon Gruden can fake enthusiasm over this mess.

So as his brother leads the NFL in almost every worthwhile passing category, Eli Manning leads the league with 15 interceptions. His season has been a disaster from the start, when he went to Dallas and tossed a pick on a screen pass before the starting lineups could be announced.

Still, the Giants are favorites, laying 3 points at most Las Vegas books and 3½ at others. I’ll bet the best number, of course.

This just appears to be the right spot for the Giants, mostly due to a weak and feeble opponent. The Vikings’ short-handed defense ranks 31st overall and 29th against the pass, and that could be the cure for what ails Manning, who has big-play wide receivers in Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks.

The Minnesota defense is so bad it made Carolina quarterback Cam Newton look like a Pro Bowl passer last week. Newton threw for 242 yards and three touchdowns in a 35-10 victory over the Vikings.

Embarrassment prompted immediate change, and the Vikings promoted recent Tampa Bay castoff Josh Freeman as their starting quarterback. For that panic move to pay off, Freeman will need a lot of help from running back Adrian Peterson.

The Buccaneers, Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars are the only remaining winless teams. The Giants, 0-6 for first time since 1976, see the opportunity to rid themselves of that bad company and their black eye.

It should be a winning weekend for Peyton Manning, as well, but I decided not to lay 6½ points with the 6-0 Denver Broncos.

Four more plays for Week 7 (home team in CAPS):

■ JAGUARS (+7½) over Chargers: This is a bet I could regret. How many of us have sworn off Jacksonville? But it’s a bad spot for the road favorite, and the hideous home ’dog is showing some improvement with Chad Henne at quarterback. San Diego, off a Monday upset of Indianapolis, is traveling across the country for an early kickoff and laying more than a touchdown. The Chargers rarely win big on the road.

■ REDSKINS (Pick) over Bears: Chicago has a good shot if its opportunistic defense picks on quarterback Robert Griffin III, who gets loose with the ball. But Griffin is starting to find his groove again. Washington outgained Dallas by 220 yards last week yet found ways to lose. The Redskins, 0-2 at home and with a trip to Denver on deck, need to find a way to squeak this one out.

■ EAGLES (-2½) over Cowboys: Injuries are taking a toll on Dallas, which might be without defensive end DeMarcus Ware and running back DeMarco Murray. If Murray is out, Tony Romo will be airing it out, turning this into a shootout that should go over the total of 55½. Nick Foles is in for injured quarterback Michael Vick, but that’s not a negative. The scary trend is Philadelphia’s 10 straight ATS losses at home. First-year Eagles coach Chip Kelly can stop that streak.

■ 49ers (-3½) over TITANS: San Francisco ranks 23rd in the league in total offense, and quarterback Colin Kaepernick is not quite right. But the 49ers have offensive, defensive and coaching edges. Tennessee has two below-average quarterbacks — Jake Locker and Ryan Fitzpatrick — and whoever starts is probably in for a long day.

Last week: 3-2 against the spread

Season: 14-15-1

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans can be reached at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts “The Las Vegas Sportsline” weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM). Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.