Shiancoe setting sights on playoffs

Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe has a "been there, done that" attitude when it comes to playing against his former team, the New York Giants. He's more interested in getting a win to try to improve the Vikings' playoff picture.

Visanthe Shiancoe is so over the New York Giants. Well, maybe not completely over them, but after spending the first four years of his NFL career with them, it's been nearly three full years since he played for the Giants, and playing against them recently has become commonplace.

A Minnesota Viking for the last three years means the passage of time has softened the motivation for Shiancoe when he faces his former team on Sunday.

"You always have ties to them. You want to play well against your former team. At the same time, I'm a Viking. I'd say the first year it was a little bit more meaningful to me," Shiancoe said. "Now I'm like, we just need to beat them. We have to beat them. We have to get that first-round bye. That's what I'm really worrying about."

The Vikings would have to beat the Giants on Sunday and have the right outcome happen with two other NFC East teams – the Cowboys beating the Eagles – for Minnesota to earn that No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs and a first-round bye.

Of course, all the talk of Shiancoe facing his former team might mean nothing if he isn't able to play. A thigh injury on Monday night took Shiancoe out of the game and he was avoiding questions about his availability for Sunday's game.

Either way, he has insight into the Giants from his time there and the connections he still has with his former teammates.

"I know they have the same system. Just little things like that I can key off to the defense here. Other than that, they have brand new players on the defense besides Osi (Umenyiora). I know a couple players," Shiancoe said.

He does know that things have changed with the Giants. The year that Shiancoe signed with the Vikings, the Giants won the Super Bowl. This year, the Giants won't even make the playoffs.

"It looks like communication. It's like nobody is on the same page," Shiancoe said when asked the difference between the 2007 championship Giants and the 2009 version. "It doesn't look like talent because I know they have the talent. They have the talent."

But Shiancoe also knows how quickly things can turn from week to week in the NFL. A month ago, the Vikings were riding high and looking at a potential No. 1 seed in the NFC. That possibility is now gone after losing three of the last four, and the Vikings will need help to secure the second seed or they will be playing in the wild card round of the playoffs.

"Jekyll and Hyde. … You never know what team is going to show up," Shiancoe said, referring to the Giants in a statement that could apply to both teams. "I think they're going to play pretty hard because that last game they want to go into next season with a little bit of momentum. A lot of guys want to keep jobs over there too. They want to go out … with a bang."

PRO BOWL SNUB?

The Vikings had a league-high eight players selected to the Pro Bowl. Shiancoe was not among them, despite a career year with 49 catches for 472 yards and 10 touchdowns through 15 games. Shiancoe said he was selected as an alternate instead.

San Francisco's Vernon Davis is the starter for the NFC squad. Davis is tied for the conference lead with 12 touchdown receptions and is on the Pro Bowl squad with Dallas tight end Jason Witten, who leads all NFC tight ends with 88 catches and 954 yards.

"It's alright. I'm just doing my part on offense. It is what it is. Alternate is alternate," he said. "It's alright. I have no opinion on that. I'll put up my 10 TDs and my 500 yards so far."

"I would rather play in the Super Bowl. But Vernon and Witten, they are great guys. Vernon definitely deserves it. He balled out. He balled out, hands down. He outplayed me this year. That's point blank."

DOUBLING TROUBLE

According to Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune, the Bears used left tackle Chris Williams and eight other players to help stop Vikings defensive end Jared Allen from becoming a big factor in Monday night's game.

That was in contrast to their Nov. 29 meeting, when left tackle Orlando Pace was given the task of squaring up against Allen, often without help. Allen finished that game with five tackles, two sacks, five quarterback hurries, a forced fumble, an interception and pass defensed. On Monday night, Allen had two tackles, no sacks and one quarterback hurry.

According to Pompei, Allen was blocked by more than one player on only three plays out of 27 dropbacks for Jay Culter in the first meeting. On Monday night, Cutler dropped back 37 times to pass and Allen was doubled 22 of those times.

NOTES

  • If the Vikings are going to secure the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs, the conference's hottest team will have to end. The Eagles' six-game winning streak is the longest in the NFC, and they travel to the Dallas Cowboys, who have won two in a row. The Vikings have to beat the Giants as well as having the Cowboys beat Philadelphia.

  • Former Vikings receiver Cris Carter likely will be knocked down a peg in receiving history. New England Patriots WR Wes Welker is tied with Carter's 1994 mark of 122 catches, third in NFL history for a single season. With two catches, Welker will move into second place, ahead of former Lions receiver Herman Moore's 1995 mark of 123 catches. Former Colts receiver Marvin Harrison holds the NFL record with 143 receptions in 2002. Welker already easily holds the record for average catches per game in a season, currently at 9.4 over the 13 games he has played this year. Harrison, Moore and Carter's totals were all achieved over 16 games played.


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