Some good news on the injury front for the Vikings: TE Visanthe Shiancoe (thigh) was able to participate in practice on a limited basis after sitting out of Wednesday’s workout.
DT Jimmy Kennedy (thumb) was not able to practice with the team and also sat out Wednesday’s practice.
There were no other changes to the injury report from Wednesday to today. To view today’s full report, click here.
There were a few changes to the Giants injury report. After missing yesterday’s practice, WR Mario Manningham (shouler) was limited on Thursday. DT Chris Canty (knee) went from being limited on Wednesday to missing Thursday’s workout.
QB Eli Manning (foot) was limited on Wednesday but was a full participant today. DE Justin Tuck (knee) was not on the Wednesday injury report but appeared on Thursday’s and did not practice.
The Giants placed both RB Brandon Jacobs (knee) and CB Aaron Ross (hamstring) on injured reserve. RB Ahmad Bradshaw, who would be the first choice to replace Jacobs in the lineup, missed a 2nd straight day of practice with ankle and knee injuries.
There were no other changes to the Giants injury report.
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In 2008 the Vikings finished the season ranked #1 against the run, which made them the first team since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to rank #1 against the run in 3 consecutive seasons (2006-2008). Their quest to duplicate the feat once again in 2009 got off to a rocky start, but quickly turned around and eventually the Vikings had the #2 ranked rushing defense in Week 12.
Now, however, after games against the Cincinnati Bengals (119 net rushing yards) and the Carolina Panthers (124), the Vikings defense has slipped a bit down to 4th in the NFL.
But, as the NFL is nearly set for its final week of the regular season, there is a chance the Vikings can climb up further in the rankings. And there’s an outside shot they could stake claim to the #1 ranking once again.
Here’s a look at the top 4 rushing defenses:
Team Yards Allowed Yards Per Game
1) Green Bay 1,285 85.7
2) Cincinnati 1,316 87.7
3) Pittsburgh 1,339 89.3
4) Minnesota 1,359 90.6
The first hurdle in front of the Vikings is their opponent, the NY Giants, who rank 12th in rushing offense with a 120.1-yard average per game. Helping the Vikings cause this week is that starting RB Brandon Jacobs is out for the Giants. While Ahmad Bradshaw is more than a capable starter, the Giants will be without their tandem plus Bradshaw is dealing with ankle and foot injuries.
If the Vikings are able to contain the Giants running game, they’ll have a legitimate chance to move up to #2 in the rankings and a very outside chance at moving up to #1.
The Steelers (#3) play at Miami on Sunday. The Dolphins have the league’s 4th-ranked rushing attack (142.1 yards per game). The Bengals (#2) play at the NY Jets, who have the NFL’s top-ranked rushing attack at 166.6 yards per game. Sitting 20 yards behind the Steelers and 43 yards behind the Bengals, the Vikings have a shot to move up (if they can take care of their own business against New York).
Green Bay, however, seems to have a pretty good hold on the #1 spot. They are 74 yards ahead of the Vikings through 15 games and they play at Arizona on Sunday. The Cardinals have the NFL’s 26th-ranked attack at 96.4 yards per game. While it’s possible the Vikings could leap ahead of Green Bay, it seems unlikely because of how much Arizona likes to pass the ball.
Even if the Vikings aren’t able to move up the rankings this week, their 2009 effort is nothing at which to scoff. They extended their streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher to 36 games before Carolina’s Jonathan Stewart broke it up and they are tied with New England for the fewest rushing TDs allowed with 4.
Over the past 3+ seasons (2006-now), the Vikings have given up a total of 4,759 rushing yards, the lowest mark in the NFL over that time and opponents are averaging just 3.3 yards per carry over the same stretch, which is tied with the Baltimore Ravens for #1 in the NFL as well.
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Most high school and college students are not in school at this time, instead enjoying Winter Break. So there aren’t many students packed into libraries cramming for tests and exams.
But while schools are on a break, the NFL is heating up and heading to the most important time of the season. The Vikings, for example, are preparing for their most important game of the season with the NFC’s #2 seed on the line. And they’re preparing for the game while in a short week because of their game last Monday night in Chicago.
In other words, the Vikings are cramming as they study the Giants and prepare for Sunday’s regular season finale. But while speaking with reporters on Wednesday at Winter Park, Vikings QB Brett Favre, drawing on his 19 years of experience in the NFL, didn’t sound like a player concerned with how he and his teammates and coaches would prepare.
Favre also makes a good point in that the Vikings are certainly not the only or the first team whose had to prepare for such an important game on a short week.
“You just got to do it,” he said. “You got to do it. We’re not the only ones that have had to.
“It’s tougher,” Favre continued. “But I’ve played 19 years and you have to be able to overcome physical and mental challenges. To me a week like this, mentally it’s talking yourself into ‘come out here like we just won the game.’ I say that and people can get the wrong impression, but it’s (the Chicago loss) over. It’s done with.
“It’s a short week. There is a lot riding on this game, as there was this past week. Everyone feels sorry for themselves, but we have to find a way to dig deep and go do it. That’s the way I’ve always done it.”
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Today is New Year’s Eve Day, which means that tonight people will gather to celebrate the memories from 2009 and usher in a brand new year – 2010.
But Vikings fans and everyone here at Winter Park should celebrate for a different reason as well – the month of December is finally over.
No team in the NFL should be happier to get out of this month than the Vikings, who have lost 3 of 4 games in the past month and saw middle LB E.J. Henderson go out for the season with a fractured leg on December 6 at Arizona. The Vikings entered December in prime position for the NFC’s #2 seed and with a solid chance at catching the Saints for home-field advantage. Now, the Vikings exit December needing a win this week and a Philadelphia loss to get a 1st-round bye.
On the morning of the Vikings-Cardinals game, we blogged about how the going would get rougher for the Vikings in December after going 3-0 in November to climb to 10-1 overall. And it did. The Vikings had a challenging stretch of games this month, including consecutive contests against division winners (Arizona and Cincinnati), 3 prime time games in 4 weeks (all on the road) and back-to-back prime time games at Carolina and at Chicago.
So as you gather tonight to celebrate with family and friends, make a toast to the month of January. After all, we’re so happy it’s finally here.
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