Vikings Find Motivation vs. Giants

With the Vikings in desperation mode to work their way back into the battle for the NFC North, they find there are plenty of connections to make playing the Giants a special task. History, however, does not favor Minnesota.

The banter and laughter of happy players and pulsating music made its way through the walls of the Vikings' weight room Monday morning into the nearby area where the media gathers.

It didn't take a genius to figure out the Vikings must have played at home a day earlier. There have been no such sounds of joy after road games this season.

The Vikings, who beat Detroit 27-14 on Sunday at the Metrodome to improve to 3-1 at home, will attempt to keep some of that momentum this Sunday when they travel to the Meadowlands to play the New York Giants.

That task became even more difficult Wednesday when cornerback Fred Smoot was declared out for four to six weeks because of a fractured right collarbone.

Sad as it is to say, even a respectable road loss Sunday would be a sign of encouragement for Mike Tice's team. The Vikings, who are tied with the Lions for second place in the NFC North at 3-5, have been utterly inept on the road so far this season.

Their 0-4 record does not begin to tell the story. Minnesota has been outscored 133-34 away from the Dome, its closest margin a 20-point defeat. Tice has talked repeatedly about how to fix the problem and is harping this week on the need to start fast.

That will be especially true against the Giants. New York has had the Vikings' number in recent seasons, beating them at the Dome and sending them into costly losing streaks each of the past two years. Falling behind early almost certainly will trigger that "here we go again" feeling that seems to overcome the Vikings at most road games.

However, if Tice ever can get his team up for a road game, this would be it.

While the Vikings are in the midst of a disappointing season, the Giants are atop the NFC East at 6-2. Tice would love nothing more than to send New York into the type of tailspin his team has experienced after New York's past two visits.

As if that weren't enough, new owner Zygi Wilf and his brother, team president Mark Wilf, were lifelong Giants fans before buying the Vikings. The family business, Garden Homes Development, is located in New Jersey, and several investors are from the East Coast. Tice, meanwhile, grew up in Long Island and also was a Giants fan.

No matter what happens the rest of the season, a victory over the Giants in New Jersey would leave a lasting, and in this case positive, impression on Wilf, his family members and friends who will be in attendance.

Quarterback Brad Johnson will get his second start in place of the injured Daunte Culpepper, and the Vikings hope Johnson's experience will help establish a calm demeanor among a team that seems to get flustered easily on the road.

Starting right guard Adam Goldberg hopes that is the case but is wisely taking a wait-and-see approach.

"I don't know," he said. "I think Brad brings a lot to the table. I think what he brings to the table is that veteran leadership that has a calming effect. But its effect on the road, I guess we'll find out soon."

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