Vikings-Giants Realize Significance Tonight

Vikings coach Dennis Green realizes that tonight's emotional clash with the Giants will have far-reaching implications for both teams -- a win keeps either in range for a division title run. A loss hurts their cause and, in the case of the Vikings, could be a burial.

The Vikings have viewed much of the 2001 season as a year of missed opportunities. The Carolina Panthers beat the Vikes on opening day and haven't won since. The Tampa Bay Bucs and Philadelphia Eagles are the offensive terrors of the NFL, but they combined to score 89 points in eight quarters on the Vikings.

If the Vikings had simply won two of those three games, not to mention a very winnable game at Chicago, the topic of discussion would be centering on getting revenge on the Giants tonight for last January's NFC title game. Instead, the talk now is simply of survival.

Both the Vikings and Giants are a far cry from the dominating squads of last season. Both teams have already lost as many games this year -- five for the Vikes and four for the Giants -- than they had lost last year at the time they met in the NFC Championship.

Both teams are feeling the pressure of the moment. The Giants must win to keep pace with the Eagles, who beat New York on Monday night two weeks ago. The Vikings have to win the next two prime time home games simply to get to .500 and look for help elsewhere.

ABC loves to hype it's Monday night games, but this one doesn't need it. It's not the championship rematch angle they had hoped for, but it's more like a game that should be on CBS -- "Survivor NFC." The winner has a week of immunity, the loser will be asked to bring his torch to Paul Tagliabue.

* The emotions will run high tonight as the Vikings honor Korey Stringer before and during the game tonight. A ceremony adding Stringer to the Ring of Fame will precede the game and a retirement ceremony of his jersey will be conducted at halftime. Typically ABC goes to its EPSN stepson for halftime activities, but VU has been told the network will carry the retirement ceremony instead.
* Sunday's games made the road even tougher for the Vikings. With playoff also-rans like Chicago and San Francisco at 7-2, the odds of the Vikings getting to the playoffs could well hinge on getting help. St. Louis is a lock, the Eagles are on a roll and Green Bay has enough home games left to get to 10 wins. With the Bears and Niners off to such a good start, barring a collapse by one or both, even 10 wins may not be enough to make this year's playoff field.
* The NFL keeps an exhaustive transactions list, noting every roster move made by every team. Since the Vikings reduced their roster to 53 players at the end of August, they have made 22 roster changes -- the most of any team in the NFL -- amazing considering that almost none of the moves have involved season-ending injuries.
* Jim Kleinsasser is going to be asked to help stay in the backfield and block against Michael Strahan. He has 15 sacks through nine games, well on pace to shatter the NFL record of 22 sacks in a season set by Mark Gastineau in 1984.

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