Like the Vikings, the Giants are also expected to have their top wide receiver limited in Sunday's game, and personnel moves on New York's defense could point in the Vikings' favor as well.
Owner Red McCombs is sending mixed signals regarding coach Mike Tice
's contract status beyond this season.
McCombs told Sports Illustrated before last Sunday's game against Tennessee that he has decided to pick up the one-year option on Tice for 2005 and will negotiate a long-term deal with him. The magazine quoted McCombs as saying he would pick up Tice's option even if the Vikings lost the rest of their games this season.
That was news to Twin Cities reporters, who have pressed McCombs on Tice's contract, only to be told every time that the issue won't be addressed until after the season.
Once news of the SI article surfaced, McCombs again was contacted by Twin Cities reporters. He denied having made a decision on Tice's future with the team.
"Nothing has changed," McCombs said. "We'll review Mike and the rest of the coaching staff at the end of the season, like we've always said."
Tice refuses to comment on his contract status. He is the lowest-paid coach in the league at $750,000. Jacksonville's Jack Del Rio, at $1.2 million, is the next lowest.
The option in Tice's contract calls for him to make $1 million next season.
Tice is trying not to let the situation become a distraction. But it's starting to. Most of the players enjoy playing for him and aren't happy that his future with the team hasn't been addressed.
WR Randy Moss (strained right hamstring) made it through most of practice Thursday and will play against the Giants on Sunday, coach Mike Tice said. "We definitely will suit him up, and not just to keep the string (of games played) going," Tice said. "I think we'll be able to utilize him in some aspect of the game plan." Moss played two snaps against the Titans last week.
K Morten Andersen had an especially lively practice Thursday. The 44-year-old's leg is as strong as it has been all season. Anderson has made 20 of 20 extra points and 7 of 7 field goals inside of 40 yards.
LB Chris Claiborne (strained left calf) did not practice Thursday and will not play Sunday, even though he is listed as doubtful. The Vikings can afford to rest Claiborne because of the play of LB Raonall Smith.
RB Moe Williams (calf) made it through all of Thursday's practice after missing a portion of Wednesday's practice. Williams is a key part of the Vikings' red-zone running attack.
RB Michael Bennett said he hopes to get more than one carry this week, but added, "I'm not getting my hopes up like last week." Bennett made his regular season debut after two right knee injuries, but was limited to one carry for no yards as Mewelde Moore's backup.
Suddenly the Giants' passing game is under attack from within.
Wide receiver Amani Toomer, the team's leading receiver (in yardage; he's tied with RB Tiki Barber with 26 receptions) may not be available against the Minnesota Vikings Sunday.
He suffered a pulled hamstring early in practice Wednesday and left immediately. He is now listed as questionable.
Without Toomer, and with the previous loss (for the season) of third wideout Tim Carter, who suffered a fractured hip socket vs. Dallas Oct. 10, the Giants' receiving corps is going to be tissue thin at best.
The only remaining starter is veteran Ike Hilliard. If Toomer can't make it, then rookie Jamaar Taylor, elevated to Carter's No. 3 spot, may have to start. The only other WRs on the roster are second year players David Tyree and Willie Ponder. There are two others on the practice squad, rookies Chris Davis and Jason Geathers. Davis is a product of Southern University (TX) while Geathers played at Miami (FL).
Even with Toomer being considered day-to-day, the likelihood is that even if he does play he will be somewhat affected by the injury. Hilliard is more of a possession-type receiver while Tyree and Ponder, both faster, still have little or no experience.
It would appear that without Toomer, two other players will by necessity be given additional responsibilities — RB Tiki Barber, who also has 26 receptions for the year, and TE Jeremy Shockey, whose forays deep down the middle of the field haven't bee as frequent this year as they were in his first two seasons.
"We won't know anything about Amani for a day or two," said a team spokesman. "Right now he's listed as questionable. That's all we have for now."
DE Michael Strahan, despite recognizing the threat presented by Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper, still feels the proper approach for the Giants is to stop the run first. "Then you can pressure the quarterback," he explains. "I think that's just it. Everybody has to play their best, and if you don't, this is the type of team that can beat you badly."
CB Frank Walker, who also doubles as a return specialist, suffered a sprained ankle last week vs. Detroit but appears to be fully recovered. He is expected to play Sunday in Minnesota.
WLB Barrett Green is going to be the starter in the base defense, but when it gets to pass coverage and sure-pass situations, he'll give way to Nick Greisen, who played for him last week when he was held out of all the action except special teams in a punitive measure by coach Tom Coughlin.
RB Ron Dayne, despite repeated failures, will handle the short-yardage and goal-line rushing duties, but it is indicated that should he continue to come up short, the job will be given to backup Mike Cloud. "I was never asked to play that role even in college," said Dayne, who earned the 1999 Heisman Trophy award at Wisconsin.
RDE Osi Umenyiora is pushing veteran Keith Washington, a former Viking, for the starting job. Umenyiora, drafted in the second round in 2003 from small Troy (Ala.) State, is 6-feet-3 and 280 pounds and has exceptional quickness off the snap. He was the player the Chargers requested in order for the Giants to keep their No. 1 pick next year in the trade for Eli Manning — and the Giants obviously chose to spend their top choice instead of trading him away.