Vikings-Giants game plan

The Giants' passing game could test the Vikings defense, especially given their issues with tackling of late. The Giants defense will be focusing on trying to contain the run, which they failed at last week. Plus, get some of the top matchups to watch in Sunday's game.

VIKINGS

The Vikings have everything to play for in this one and the Giants have little reason for which to show up. That's what makes this one so dangerous for Minnesota.

The Giants are coming off a terrible 41-9 loss against Carolina in their home finale and could come into this one looking to make a better final impression. The Vikings' 20th-ranked pass defense will get another test from Giants quarterback Eli Manning.

New York is ranked 11th in the NFL in passing and 12th in rushing, so they can certainly throw the ball and also set up the pass through play action. The most important thing for the Vikings defense will be making sure it wraps up players after the catch.

The problem isn't that opponents are catching passes, it's that they are allowed to run after the catch because the Vikings' tackling has been suspect.

On offense, the Vikings will continue to look to get their run game on track. Adrian Peterson has gone six consecutive games without a 100-yard rushing performance. The Giants are 15th against the run and eighth against the pass.

The key for the Vikings is finding a comfortable mix of run and pass. In last Monday's loss at Chicago, the Vikings tried to get their ground game going in the first half but fell behind 16-0 and Brett Favre had to go to the air in the second half.

The Vikings want to stay away from being forced into becoming one-dimensional and will feature a mix of both the run and the pass in this one.

GIANTS

Every week, Giants head coach Tom Coughlin reiterates the importance of stopping the opponent's running game, and with good reason. In all four of the Giants' most lopsided losses this season — New Orleans, the first Philadelphia game, Denver, and Carolina — the Giants' run defense allowed at least 130 yards rushing.

That did appear to settle down when the coaches shook up the starting lineup after the Denver game, replacing DE Osi Umenyiora with Mathias Kiwanuka, and swapping DT Fred Robbins for Chris Canty. However, after allowing just 211 rushing yards in three games, they gave up an astonishing 247 net yards rushing to the Panthers, 206 of those to RB Jonathan Stewart.

With the Vikings fielding the league's third-leading rusher in RB Adrian Peterson (1,329 yards, 4.4 yards per carry), the Giants must find a way to slow him down and take their chances with the passing game led by QB Brett Favre.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

Vikings CB Cedric Griffin, who leads the team with four interceptions, vs. Giants WR Steve Smith, who has 97 catches for 1,163 yards and seven touchdowns. Smith could end up on either side but will get some snaps against Griffin. Griffin has become a steady corner and intercepted his fourth pass of the season last Monday against the Bears. Smith is 5-11, 195 pounds, making him a good matchup from a physical standpoint for the 6-foot, 203-pound Griffin.

Vikings WR Sidney Rice, who is second in the NFC with 1,200 receiving yards, vs. Giants CB Terrell Thomas, who leads New York with five interceptions. Rice has established himself as Brett Favre's go-to guy this season and that doesn't figure to change as the Vikings play a game of extreme importance. Rice's main assets are his size (6-4) and his jumping ability, and he certainly will have an advantage against the 6-foot, 199-pound Thomas in this matchup.

Giants secondary vs. Vikings receivers. This matchup has the potential to get ugly very quickly, as the Vikings have a lot of speed with Percy Harvin and Bernard Berrian, not to mention Rice's production. The Giants' secondary, meanwhile, has been playing without its top corner, Corey Webster, and will not have Webster or CB Aaron Ross this week. That means the Vikings trio will square off against CBs Kevin Dockery, Terrell Thomas and rookie Bruce Johnson. Dockery still takes far too many gambles that backfire on him, as was the case last week, while Johnson is still struggling with his recognition of routes. Thomas has been the best of the group, but his tackling remains suspect at times. Factor in the play of safeties Michael Johnson and Aaron Rouse, both of whom haven't stood out in coverage, and this matchup could end up being one of the keys to the game.

Giants run defense vs. Vikings RB Adrian Peterson. Despite his shaky second half of the season in which ball security has been an issue, Peterson, the league's third-ranked rusher in terms of yardage, is still a shifty, dangerous runner whose big-play potential will keep a run defense on its toes. That's not good news for a Giants run defense which last week couldn't get off its blocks and ended up being gashed for 247 rushing yards, 206 of which were by Jonathan Stewart, Carolina's No. 2 running back.

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