Assuming the Vikings will try to rest WR Randy Moss' strained hamstring as much as possible, expect the game plan to be similar to last week when the Vikings beat the Titans with a controlled passing attack by MVP frontrunner Daunte Culpepper and 138 yards rushing from rookie RB Mewelde Moore.
Normally, the Vikings are a quick-strike, run-up-the-score kind of team. But this week, they need to control the tempo of the game and keep the ball away from RB Tiki Barber, QB Kurt Warner and TE Jeremy Shockey. Barber, who leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage (989, a 6.9-yard average), and Shockey are serious matchup problems. Warner can be, too, if the Vikings don't pressure him. Last season, Kerry Collins had time to throw and responded with 375 yards passing and two touchdowns.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Vikings linebackers vs. Giants RB Tiki Barber. Barber is second in the NFC in rushing with 647 yards. He averages 5.5 yards per carry and 13.2 yards on 26 receptions, including a 62-yard touchdown. The Vikings have much more speed at linebacker. WLB Raonall Smith is finally playing up to the potential the Vikings expected when they drafted him in the second round in 2002. MLB E.J. Henderson's banged up knee is getting better. And nickel MLB Dontarrious Thomas should be able to cover Barber in passing situations.
Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper vs. the Giants' secondary. For some reason, Culpepper has some of his worst games against the Giants. His passer rating is 65.7 with six touchdowns and seven interceptions. He threw two interceptions in last season's upset loss to the Giants in Game 7 at the Metrodome. The Giants' defense has eight interceptions. CB Will Peterson is one of three Giants with two interceptions.
Vikings RT Nat Dorsey vs. Giants LDE Michael Strahan. Ho-hum. Another week, another pass-rushing nightmare for the rookie Dorsey. He already has faced Chicago's Adewale Ogunleye and New Orleans' Charles Grant. Now, he gets one of the best pass rushers in NFL history in Strahan, who has only three sacks this season but could wreak havoc on the Vikings' pass protection schemes.
The Giants might present one of the stronger defenses the Vikings have had to contend with so far this season aside from Philadelphia, and their running game is not particularly strong.
"In fact," says head coach Tom Coughlin, "they run better than you think they might because everybody is so afraid of Culpepper and his passing game."
But without a significant amount of concern vis-a-vis the running game, it is possible the Giants will blitz more than they usually do in an attempt to keep Culpepper off balance. He has thrown completions to five different receivers ranging from 21 to 26 catches — for 17 of his 19 TD passes. The running game has accounted for only two TD, one by Culpepper himself.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
The Giants' front seven will be attempting to use unorthodox blitz packages to keep Culpepper on his toes. Look for penetration up the middle by MLB Kevin Lewis and from the edges by reserve DE Osi Umenyiora and Pro Bowl veteran Michael Strahan.
Offensively, the Giants will attempt to isolate RB Tiki Barber on a linebacker, perhaps WLB Raonall Smith. If that works, they'll continue with screens to Barber until the defense comes up closer and then attempt to send TE Jeremy Shockey deep down the middle with WRs Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard (48 catches between them but no TDs) deep down the sidelines. Hilliard also has a knack for going over the middle.
Vikings-Giants Game Plan
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