Vikings-Giants game plan

The Vikings are approaching Sunday's game as if the Giants will be at full strength, but New York coach Tom Coughlin isn't giving away any information in that regard. Plus, get a number of intriguing matchups to watch.

The Vikings are going to be in an interesting situation in this game. They need a victory to assure themselves of winning the NFC North - a Bears loss in Houston also would give Minnesota the division title - but they don't know what approach the Giants might take.

New York has clinched the top seed in the NFC and all that goes with it, so it's possible that quarterback Eli Manning and other starters could see limited work. But with the Giants having a bye in the first round of the playoffs there also is a chance Tom Coughlin won't want to take the chance of his guys getting rusty.

The Vikings say they are going to approach this as if the Giants are going to go all out for victory, meaning the Minnesota's top-ranked run defense is going to have to be on top of its game against the league's best rushing attack.

The Vikings are without Pro Bowl nose tackle Pat Williams but they still have the NFL's top rushing defense and gave up a respectable 98 yards against the Falcons' excellent ground attack last Sunday.

The Vikings are going to need another good showing from quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. Jackson has looked like a much-improved player since returning to the field on Dec. 7 after Gus Frerotte was injured. Jackson provides the ability to run when things break down in the pocket but sometimes he becomes too reliant on his feet.

The Vikings are at their best when their third-ranked rushing attack is able to move the ball with Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson. But Peterson needs to stop putting the ball on the ground. He fumbled twice last week, losing one. The Vikings had seven fumbles in the game and lost four.

Peterson leads the NFL's non-quarterbacks with eight fumbles this season and there is little doubt the Giants will try to add to that by going after the ball at every opportunity.


Giants front seven vs. Vikings RB Adrian Peterson - The Giants' front seven, which might be at less than full strength as the team attempts to rest some of its injured, has never faced Peterson, and against a less-than-healthy contingent he can be extremely dangerous. Peterson, in his second year, is clearly the NFL's top running back. And since he can to the outside and up the middle with equally lethal success, containing him will be a key to the game for the Giants.

Vikings QB Tarvaris Jackson vs. Giants FS Michael Johnson and SS James Butler – Jackson, who is scheduled to start ahead of veteran Gus Frerotte, has not faced the Giants, nor have they faced him. But he has played well the past two weeks and if he remains sharp, might try to exploit the deep secondary where Johnson and Butler were less than effective last week.

Giants C Shaun O'Hara and OGs Chris Snee and Rich Seubert vs. Vikings DT Kevin Williams – O'Hara, Snee and Seubert will have to deal with Williams, one of the NFL's top run-stuffers. The good news for that trio is that Minnesota's other DT, Pat Williams, perhaps even a higher-rated run stopper, is out with a broken bone in his shoulder. The Giants will want to hone their running game, and going against the best is one sure way to determine how well they'll do in the playoffs.

Vikings TE Visanthe Shiancoe vs. Giants linebackers — Shiancoe established single-game highs in receptions (seven), receiving yards (136) and touchdowns (two) last Sunday against Atlanta. The former Giant has a team-leading seven touchdown catches and has developed a nice chemistry on seam routes with Tarvaris Jackson. It will be up to New York's linebacker corps to hold Shiancoe in check. Included in this group will be middle linebacker Antonio Pierce, who has a team-leading 91 tackles this season.

Vikings NTs Fred Evans and Jimmy Kennedy vs. Giants rushing offense – Evans and Kennedy played pretty well in place of the injured Pat Williams against Atlanta's top-notch running game. They will get another stiff test against the Giants. New York and Atlanta were tied atop the NFL in rushing entering last weekend, but the Giants are now all alone in first with an average of 158.9 yards per game. The Vikings, though, aren't too shabby when it comes to stopping the run, also ranking first (73 yards). The key is the majority of that statistical success was built with Williams anchoring the middle. Giants RB Brandon Jacobs (1,089 yards, 15 touchdowns) might not see much, if any, time Sunday because of a knee problem, but Derrick Ward likely (948 yards, two touchdowns) will be going right at Evans and Kennedy in this one.

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