"I'm not playing tentative at all. I'm just going out there and having fun. I know what's going on," he said. "Everything is slowing down for me a little bit. It's being aggressive but at the same time being smart, just trying to make plays."
A review of the statistics between the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants brought forth one somewhat surprising comparison. Eli Manning, who was being mentioned as a potential league MVP candidate, has an 86.9 passer rating with 21 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Jackson, whose future is still considered to be very much up in the air, has a 96.8 passer rating in 4½ games played with eight touchdowns and one interception.
Jackson also displayed his athleticism last Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons when he was flushed from the pocket and resorted to tucking the ball and running. He ended up tying Adrian Peterson as the game's leading rusher with 76 yards.
"You never plan to run the football. You just take whatever they give you," Jackson said. "If it opens up, that's part of my ability, part of what I bring to the team – being able to run the football when it's open. I just took it."
Jackson still has to answer questions about his long-term durability, and last week at least a propensity to fumble came to the forefront. Jackson was credited with three fumbles – one on a botched handoff exchange that appeared to be as much Peterson's fault as Jackson's – in a game that saw seven fumbles by the Vikings.
"That one fumble that I had in the red zone, it was big. We were driving. A couple of miscues that we had – other than that we were playing a pretty good game. We moved the football besides turnovers. They really didn't stop us. We pretty much killed ourselves."
PETERSON BOUNCING BACK
Jackson wasn't the only the Viking that had fumbling issues last week. Peterson, who leads all non-quarterbacks in the league with eight fumbles this year, was credited with two fumbles and one turnover against the Falcons.
Jackson said Peterson is focused for Sunday's game against the Giants.
"He's good. He's more focused. We've got to do a better job taking care of the football. He knows that and I'm pretty sure he's going to get it done," Jackson said. "He's a big part of what we do. We can't let him get down because he's probably one of the most valuable players on this team. We've got to make sure we keep him up."
Safety Darren Sharper indicated that Peterson's troubles against the Falcons could be motivation during the regular-season finale.
"You can see he's focused on having a heck of a game on Sunday. He's a guy that's an extreme competitor," Sharper said. "He knows what he needs to do to improve on anything that he might have messed up on in previous games. He's going to put every effort forward to try to make those improvements. I truly expect him to come out and have a big game on Sunday."
Jackson said earlier this week that he wasn't even sure what time the Chicago Bears play the Houston Texans, a game that would determine the Vikings' playoff fate if they lose to the Giants.
"I don't even know what time they play or where they play. I just know they play Sunday. We're just going to try to take care of our part," Jackson said. "If you wait for somebody else to do that, we've been waiting for the last couple of weeks. We want (the Texans) to win, but at the same time we want to win ourselves."
For the record, the Bears-Texans game starts at noon Central, just like the Vikings-Giants game. Informed of that fact, Jackson figured the hometown scoreboard operators would show the Bears score if they were losing.
"I'm pretty sure they're going to keep it up there, especially if the Texans are winning to try to get the crowd into the game and stuff. We're just going to try to take care of our part," Jackson said.
For the record, Vikings coach Brad Childress said he wasn't too concerned if the score of the Bears-Texans game was shown.
BATTLE OF STRENGTHS
For the second straight week, the Vikings are facing the league's No. 1 rushing attack. The Falcons entered the Vikings game last week as the No. 1 rushing team in the league but after the Vikings held them to 98 total net yards rushing, the Vikings Falcons fell to No. 5 rushing attack in the league.
The Giants overtook the top spot, but they are facing a Minnesota defense that held onto the top ranking for rush defense.
"They're the top running attack in the NFL, so two bulls meeting right in the middle," Vikings safety Darren Sharper said. "… It's going to come down to a force of wills and we've got to have to the stronger will. We know they're going to come in here and try to run the football, go downhill. Like my high school football coach said, ‘They don't even disguise it. They sound the bugle.'"
While the Giants might elect to rest banged-up start Brandon Jacobs, who leads the team with 1,089 yards, backup Derrick Ward is coming off the best rushing performance of his career.
Ward rushed for a career-high 215 yards on 15 carries (14.3-yard average) on Sunday night as the Giants beat the Carolina Panthers 34-28 in overtime to clinch homefield advantage in the NFC playoffs. He is only the second player in NFL history to rush for at least 215 yards on 15 carries or fewer and was just the third Giant to run for 215 yards in a game.
On the first play of the Giants' overtime drive, Ward rushed 51 yards up the middle to the Carolina 36-yard line, the longest run of his career. Later in the drive, Ward added runs of 14 and 17 yards to set up Jacobs' winning touchdown. Ward accounted for 82 of the Giants' 87 yards on the game-winning drive.
"I think that they were probably more patient with (the running game)," Vikings coach Brad Childress said of the Giants last weekend. "And I know that is the way that they like to play football. It is physical-natured football – everything starts with that and it builds the play action and I know that is their preferred way. They have a good offensive line; they have three good running backs. It helps those quarterbacks and wide receivers and tight end get open."
Childress said after Friday's practice that even if Hicks can play, Ryan Cook would be starting.
Peterson will join Earl Campbell (1978-79), Eric Dickerson (1983-84) and Edgerrin James (1999-2000) in that category.