The Vikings set an NFL record last year after leading the league in rushing defense for three straight seasons. Their chances for a repeat seem unlikely and that honor could end up going to the Packers.
Barring a small miracle Sunday, the Vikings run of three straight years leading the NFL in rushing defense will end this week.
Entering play for the final game of the season, the Vikings remain fourth in the league in run defense. Pittsburgh, which had been leading the league until giving up 175 yards to Baltimore last week, dropped to third place. The Packers currently lead the league, having allowed 1,285 rushing yards, followed by Cincinnati (1,316) and Pittsburgh (1,339). The Vikings are fourth at 1,359 yards.
Seeing as the Packers are playing the rushing-challenged Arizona Cardinals, it isn't likely that the Vikings will be able to make up the 74 yards needed to overtake them. The Bengals are playing the Jets, one of the league's best rushing teams, so the chances of making up the 43 yards by which they trail them is possible. The Steelers play at Miami, another team known more for its rushing that its passing, so the Vikings could easily make up the 20 yards on them.
It will take a shut-down effort by the Vikings to have a chance to win a fourth straight defensive rushing title. Given the grim injury news in the Giants backfield with Brandon Jacobs
out and Ahmad Bradshaw
fighting multiple injury, it is not impossible but certainly seems improbable.
The Giants returned approximately 300 tickets for Sunday's game. For those interested, the remaining tickets can be purchased via Ticketmaster or at the Vikings ticket office at the Metrodome.
Defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy was the only Viking who didn't take part in Thursday's practice. He has missed both practice sessions this week with a thumb injury.
Visanthe Shiancoe, who missed Wednesday's practice with a thigh injury, returned on a limited basis Thursday. Five Vikings that were limited in Wednesday's practice were also limited Thursday – offensive linemen Steve Hutchinson (shoulder) and John Sullivan (knee), defensive tackle Pat Williams (elbow), Winfield (foot) and safety Eric Frampton (ankle).
Two injured Giants starters – running back Brandon Jacobs and cornerback Aaron Ross – were placed on injured reserve Thursday to end their 2009 seasons.
Five other Giants players did not practice Thursday. Running back Ahmad Bradshaw (ankles/foot), offensive tackle Kareem McKenzie (knee) and CB Corey Webster (knee) missed a second straight day of practice Thursday. Defensive tackle Chris Canty, who was limited in Wednesday's practice with a knee injury, sat out Thursday's practice. Defensive end Justin Tuck, who was not listed on Wednesday's injury report, was out Thursday with a knee injury.
Three other Giants – WR Hakeen Nicks (hamstring), DT Fred Robbins (lower leg) and guard Rick Seubert (knee) – were limited in practice for a second straight day.
Quarterback Eli Manning, who was limited in practice Wednesday, returned to full practice duties Thursday.
It will be interesting to see Friday's final injury report, because, as it stands, the Giants could be without a handful of starters Sunday.
The Arizona Cardinals will be scoreboard watching Sunday. With the potential of moving ahead of the Vikings in the playoff seeding process if Minnesota loses to the Giants in the early games Sunday, the Cardinals could go with their full starting lineup. But, if the Vikings win, Arizona would be assured of playing next week, which could see them bench many of their starters early against the Packers.