Sunday slant: Seven for Sunday

The Vikings looked like they didn't arrive with much intensity the last two games, but they should have numerous statistical advantages over the Giants. Other points: It's definitely a passing league as record numbers of QBs (including Eli Manning and Brett Favre) are throwing for yardage, TDs and high ratings. A calling out of the Vikings' safeties and a tip on healthy diets from Sidney Rice.

With a two-game losing streak and the playoffs on the horizon, the Vikings have several areas they need to address in the coming week or two. Sunday would be a good time to start fixing the ailments while hoping to get some help from the Philadelphia Eagles.

Here are a few points to consider from the past week as the Vikings get one last chance to get it right before the playoffs:

Point one: For six of the eight quarters of their two-game slide, the Vikings offense struggled mightily to put up points. They scored seven points against the Carolina Panthers and were shut out in the first half against the Chicago Bears. But the switch flipped back on in the second half against the Bears. They scored 30 points in a half, which approached a second-half scoring record for the team. The all-time second-half mark for the Vikings is 38 points against Jacksonville in 1998. So what happened in the second half?

Some believe the intensity ramped up, but coaches have been cautious not to say that the team came out flat in the first half or that effort was lacking. Wide receiver Sidney Rice may have put it best.

"We got out-tempoed. Just like that, we got out-tempoed (in the first half). That's something we were harping on, we were emphasizing at the beginning of the year. We kind of got away from that and we're going to get back to that," he said. "I'm confident in my teammates and I'm sure they're confident in the other people around the locker room as well. We're going to get back to that same tempo, that same intensity, and we're going to get it on the right page this last game."

Point two: The New York Giants offer a good starting point for that turnaround. The Vikings and Giants have eerily similar numbers on offense, except for a couple of very key areas. Brett Favre has thrown only seven interceptions this season and the Giants have thrown 13, leading to a total-giveaways (interceptions and fumbles lost) advantage of 18 to 29 in favor of the Vikings (despite Adrian Peterson's six lost fumbles). The other offensive category where Minnesota dominates is scoring touchdowns once in the red zone, converting on 62.3 percent of its tries compared to 47.3 percent for New York.

Point three: For all the similarities on offense, the Vikings hold big advantages on defense. They allow five fewer points per game on average, almost 20 fewer rushing yards per game, have almost one more sack per game, and have a much better red zone defense (43.6 percent to 68.5 percent). The Giants have been known as a team built on defense, but that hasn't been the case as much this year.

Point four: One of the biggest issues with the Giants has been their inability to stop the big play, which could be good news for Adrian Peterson. New York has given up 50 rushes of 10-plus yards and 45 passes of 20 yards or more. The Vikings have 52 pass plays of 20 yards or more, but they distribute long rushes as those of 15 yards or more and have 23 of those.

Point five: It's the year of the quarterback in the NFL, and Brett Favre and Eli Manning could be joining the party. Eight QBs have already thrown for 4,000 yards or more in the NFL this year, the most in league history. Favre has 3,886 and Manning has 3,880. Cardinals QB Kurt Warner has 3,722. Already on the 4,000-yard list this season are Matt Schaub, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Tony Romo, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger.

The number of quarterbacks with 25 touchdown passes or more is also up in 2009. With this weekend's games left, nine QBs have thrown 25 TD passes, one QB shy of the league record. Brees, Peyton and Eli Manning, Favre, Rodgers, Brady, Rivers, Schaub and Warner already have 25 or more TD passes each. Romo (24), Jay Cutler (23) and Roethlisberger (23) are in range of that mark.

Five QBs also have a passer rating of 100 or better, which would be the most in NFL history if they can all maintain that status. Brees leads the way at 109.6, followed by Rivers (104.5), Favre (104.3), Rodgers (102.4) and Peyton Manning (101.0).

"I do believe that it is becoming more of a passing league. They are trying to spread guys out," said Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. "Maybe that has something to do with the college ranks and some of the guys that are coming up through those ranks with all the spread offenses and things that are going on at the college level. They are prepared to play that type of game."

Point six: The presence of Eli Manning resurrects memories of Darren Sharper intercepting Manning in New York during a 2005 game between the Vikings and Giants. The Vikings became the first team in NFL history to score on interception, punt and kickoff returns in the same game. Sharper tied the Vikings record with three interceptions in the game and set a team mark with 123 return yards, including a 92-yarder for a touchdown.

Sharper had nine interceptions in 2005, but since the installation of the Tampa-2 defense, the safeties haven't been garnering as many interceptions. In 2006, Sharper and Dwight Smith each had four interceptions and the same thing happened in 2007. Last year, Sharper had only one interception and Madieu Williams had two.

It's gotten even worse this year. Tyrell Johnson has the only interception by a safety, a terrible showing.

"I think we've been in position to get a couple more interceptions, but we've fallen short. Hopefully this Sunday, and in the games to come, we'll pick that up," defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. "We still have some time to get some numbers. They are two athletic safeties who have very good hands. We just haven't gotten our hands on enough balls to come away with more. We just have to keep working on it."

Or consider making changes with the personnel in the back end.

Extra point: I doubt I'm alone in packing on the holiday pounds, but all the human hibernators for winter could take a lesson from Rice – not the food, the Vikings receiver. Sidney Rice said this was the first year he didn't set any goals for receptions or touchdown numbers, but he has had by far his best year in receptions (77) and yards (1,200). The key? Focusing on staying healthy, and that started by watching what he ate.

"My main focus was to stay healthy and get a full 16 games plus the playoffs. That came along with maturing and learning more about the game. I heard it all the time as a rookie, going through the (lunch) line, ‘Why are you eating that? You need to learn to take care of your body. You can eat it now, but you're young and it's going to take its toll'" Rice said. "I started listening to the older guys, taking care of my body. If I'm sitting around in the locker room, (tight end Visanthe) Shiancoe would drag me into the training room: ‘Come stretch with me. Come stretch with me.' Alright. I'd go in there, get my extra stretching in. Hot tub. Cold tub. The extra lifts. All that stuff factors in and it helps your body throughout the season."


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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