Vikes need a win and help to secure first-round bye

By Santosh Venkataraman
STATS Senior Writer

The New York Giants are easily one of the league’s biggest

disappointments. The Minnesota Vikings, surprisingly, could soon join

that category the way they are finishing the season.

No longer in control of gaining a first-round bye, the Vikings try to

complete an unbeaten home slate Sunday when they meet the Giants in

Week 17 for the second straight year.

Minnesota (11-4) is headed to the playoffs for the second straight

season while New York (8-7) will miss out for the first time since

2004. All looked well for Brett Favre and the NFC North champion

Vikings when they entered December at 10-1.

Favre and Minnesota have struggled in three straight road losses since,

including Monday’s 36-30 overtime defeat at Chicago. That left the

Vikings needing help to secure the No. 2 seed in the NFC behind New

Orleans.

Minnesota must beat New York and

hope Philadelphia loses to Dallas to gain a much-needed week off for

the 40-year-old Favre, who threw for 321 yards and two scores Monday.

The Vikings are the lone NFC team with an unbeaten home mark and last went 8-0 in 1998.

“We are 7-0 at home right now and the Metrodome is a great

environment,” coach Brad Childress said. “We want to make sure that we

take care of that home. It is a great advantage. That is why people are

fighting to get that home field advantage.”

Favre clashed with Childress on the sideline two weeks ago in a loss at

Carolina, and has five touchdowns and four interceptions over the last

four games. The two claim their relationship is fine.

“To portray it as a broken marriage or what have you, it is a

player-coach relationship and there is communication that goes back and

forth,” Childress said. “He and I know what we said on the sidelines

and that is the way it should remain.”

Favre was named to his 11th Pro Bowl on Monday along with seven other

Vikings, and realizes his club needs to get back on track.

“We have to play better,” Favre said. “We have to play like we did

earlier in the year or several weeks back. I think we all know that. If

not, we’re fooling ourselves.”

Minnesota’s

offense has been forced to rely on Favre the last four weeks with

opponents slowing down Adrian Peterson, who is third in the league with

1,329 rushing yards and first with 17 rushing touchdowns. Peterson’s

per-carry average the last four games is down to 3.3 after being at 4.7

through the first 11 games.

Facing the

Giants’ porous run defense could get Peterson going. New York allowed

247 yards on the ground — 206 to Jonathan Stewart — in last week’s

41-9 loss to Carolina that eliminated the Giants.

The Vikings have also had problems on the other side of the ball that

were evident Monday when a Bears’ offense ranked 24th in the league had

363 yards. Minnesota has given up an average of 386.0 yards in their

three losses over the last four weeks.

“Defensively, I put this all on us,” Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen

said. “Defensively, we did not make enough plays. We didn’t tackle or

stop the run like we were supposed to. It’s on everybody. It’s not one

person or one call.”

New York will be

without Brandon Jacobs, who is out with a knee injury and only amassed

835 rushing yards after back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Ahmad Bradshaw

has battled ankle problems all season and will play, although coach Tom

Coughlin indicated that he isn’t capable of a full workload.

The Giants’ biggest challenge may be more from an emotional standpoint.

A team that was considered one of the league’s elite faltered after a

5-0 start and turned in a dismal performance last Sunday in its final

game at Giants Stadium.

“Everyone is

down, is sad, is disappointed,” Coughlin said. “You have to forget all

of that stuff. No one wants to hear about your troubles, OK. What they

want to hear about is, ‘what are you going to do about it?'”

Eli Manning was a bright spot after signing a $97 million contract

extension before the season. Manning has posted career-bests of 27

touchdown passes, a 61.7 completion percentage and 3,880 yards passing.

The last time these quarterbacks squared

off was two years ago in the NFC title game when New York beat Green

Bay in overtime to end Favre’s tenure with the Packers. The Giants lost

to Favre’s Packers by 22 points in Week 2 that season.

“I always use the Giants as an example. A couple years ago, everyone

had written those guys off, probably including themselves,” Favre said.

“We played them early in the year.

“If

you told me after that game, it was the second or third game in New

York, if you told me after that game. first of all that the Giants

would make the playoffs, I’d say you’re crazy. If you told me second of

all that they would make it to the Super Bowl, I believe I would have

had you admitted. But they did.”

Minnesota

beat New York 20-19 on Ryan Longwell’s 50-yard field goal as time

expired in the finale last year to capture the NFC North crown. The

Giants benched Manning and most starters after the first half, having

clinched the top seed in the conference.

Received 12/30/09 03:28 pm ET