For the 2nd consecutive season, the Vikings will close out their regular season schedule by hosting the NY Giants at Mall of America Field. And also for the 2nd consecutive season, the Giants enter the season finale against the Vikings with no competitive implications on the line.
Last year in Week 17, New York came to Minnesota with their playoff position solidified. As a result, they pulled several starters in the 2nd half and the Vikings ultimately won the game with a 50-yard FG at the buzzer by Ryan Longwell.
This year in Week 17, the Giants are eliminated from playoff conversation. But don’t expect them to pull starters in the 2nd half to ease the Vikings path to victory. They were embarrassed last week in a 41-9 loss to the Carolina Panthers at home in the final Giants game at Giants Stadium. Then Tom Coughlin was at a loss for words in his postgame press conference. Then he and his players apologized to the fans the following day. Then a Giants alumni player crushed the team for their effort.
Needless to say, the Vikings do not expect the Giants to come in here, roll over and hand the Vikings a victory.
And this is a victory the Vikings need in order to secure a 1st-round bye in the NFC playoffs. Having lost 3 of their last 4 games, the Vikings have relinquished control of the #2 seed to the Philadelphia Eagles. If the Eagles win at Dallas on Sunday afternoon, they get the NFC’s 2nd seed. But if the Eagles falter on the road and the Vikings win at home, the #2 seed goes to the Purple.
While the trio of losses over the past month is a buzzkill, it was encouraging to see QB Brett Favre and Co. get things going in the right direction during the 2nd half of Monday night’s loss to the Bears. The Vikings scored 30 points in the 3rd and 4th quarters and completed a 17-point comeback before falling just short in overtime. As disappointing as the effort and outcome was in the 1st half Monday night, I’d say the effort and outcome was even more encouraging in the 2nd half.
The Giants, whose defense ranks 10th overall and offense ranks 6th, will pose as a stiff challenge, though. QB Eli Manning is having a career season and RB Brandon Jacobs is a beast who won’t shy away from the Vikings 4th-ranked rushing defense.
On Sunday at noon the Vikings will have a chance to prove that the recent downturn in production is a mirage and the 30-point, 2nd-half outburst against the Bears is reality. And if they can do that, they’ll have a shot at the NFC’s #2 seed and a bye during Wild Card Weekend.
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