The Giants could elect to rest or limited the playing time of several high-profile starters Sunday when they face the Vikings. Here are the leading candidates to grab some sideline metal.
It is unknown whether the Giants will utilize all their starters in Sunday's game against the Vikings. They have nothing to gain with a victory and cannot affect their No. 1 playoff seed in the NFC with a defeat. The temptation for head coach Tom Coughlin will be to rest his wounded warriors — and that includes DE Justin Tuck
, CB Aaron Ross
, DT Fred Robbins
, RB Brandon Jacobs
, ORT Kareem McKenzie
, WR Sinorice Moss
and LB Gerris Wilkinson
, among others.
Thus it is impossible to predict which players will start under such a set of circumstances.
Speculation has been raised as to the status of QB Eli Manning
and whether he'll play the full game Sunday in Minneapolis. Odds are that reserve David Carr
, the only other QB on the active roster, will see significant action. But it is almost certain that Manning will start and stay in perhaps as long as the entire first half.
RB Brandon Jacobs already has his 1,000 yards and because of that it would be far less disappointing for him to miss the game. He has a sore knee, which he says has been with him since Week Three vs. Cincinnati. He has missed one full game and parts of three others, and since he is the team's rushing leader there would be no reason to play him.
RT Kareem McKenzie has suffered back spasms off and on all season and was obviously hampered last week vs. Carolina. He will probably take the day off, and the Giants will have the chance to see what they've got in Kevin Boothe
or Adam Koets
RB Derrick Ward
, who was named Offensive Player of the Week for his 215-yard performance Sunday night, will probably start in place of Jacobs, but expect to see a lot of Ahmad Bradshaw
and even Danny Ware
before the game is over.
TE Kevin Boss
might give way at some point to his backups, Darcy Johnson
and Michael Matthews
, so the coaching staff can begin to evaluate that position. Boss has been more than they hoped for, but there are questions about the backups that might have to be answered in the draft.
Former Giants' TE Visanthe Shiancoe, who two years ago signed with the Vikings as an unrestricted free agent, has become a major influence in the team's offense and says he relishes this meeting with the Giants, his first since leaving. But he also expects it to be hard-fought. "They're doing well and I'm happy for them," Shiancoe said, "but we want to do well, too, and I'd be even happier with a win."
RBs Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward are on the cusp of becoming only the fourth set of RBs in NFL history to go over 1,000 yards in the same season. "I'm happy for him," said Jacobs, the starter with 1,089 yards, "but it's kind of sad, too, since we're both free agents and I don't know if the team can afford to keep us both." Ward needs 52 for the 1,000-yard milestone.
Ward rushed for 215 yards last Sunday night vs. Carolina while Jacobs added 87. The 215 was Ward's career high and the fourth highest in team history. Furthermore, if the Giants rush for at least 69 yards vs. the Vikings they will set a single-season franchise rushing yards record, currently 2,451 in 1985.
QB Eli Manning is closing in on his best career season, currently sporting 273 completions in 460 attempts for 3,119 yards, 21 TDs and 10 interceptions. Last year he had 297 completions in 529 attempts for 3,336 yards, 23 TDs and 20 picks. He needs three TD tosses, 25 completions and 217 yards for highs in those categories.
When the Panthers scored a first-possession TD last Sunday night they became only the third opponent to do so. Pittsburgh (Oct. 26) and Philadelphia (Nov. 9) were the others.
The two-point conversion pass to WR Domenik Hixon was the Giants' first successful two-pointer since Nov. 27, 2005, when Manning hit TE Jeremy Shockey against Seattle. The one to Hixon tied the game with 3:48 remaining in the fourth quarter, and it went into OT after John Kasay missed a 50-yard FG attempt for Carolina with nine seconds remaining.
Jacobs now has 15 rushing TDs on the season, and while he can't catch the team's all-time leader (Joe Morris with 21 in 1985) he can finish all alone in second place, which he currently shares with Ottis Anderson.
BY THE NUMBERS: 1 — If the Giants win on Sunday it will give them a final regular-season record of 13-3, which would leave them one short of tying the team's franchise record of 14 victories set in 1986 under Bill Parcells. The Giants ended their regular-season that year at 14-2 and went on to their first Super Bowl appearance (and victory).
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Honestly, you owe it to the team, you owe it to the fans and you have a team out there playing for their playoff lives, so it could be dangerous to be lackadaisical, to coast when they are flying off the ball." — Giants' DT Barry Cofield on whether to play "all out" against the Vikings on Sunday.