Sunday, December 28, 2008

Ultimate Trap Game

The Minnesota Vikings enter Sunday's regular season, home finale against the NFC East champion New York Giants a staggering seven point favorite. Vikings' fans know well to be wary of such games. For, in big games, particularly in games that the Vikings must win to make it to or advance in the playoffs, the Vikings have a spectacular way of disappointing.

The Giants enter Sunday's road game with little for which to play. Having already secured home-field advantage and a first-round bye in the playoffs, only the ever elusive momentum is of any meaning to the team. Giants' head coach Tom Coughlin already has made clear that that concern, alone, will not suffice to compel him to play all of his starters.

Likely to sit for all or most of Sunday's game against the Vikings are Giants' starting cornerback Aaron Ross, running back Brandon Jacobs, offensive tackle Kareem McKenzie, defensive tackle Barry Cofield, tight end Kevin Boss, and defensive end Justin Tuck. And the Giants are already without suspended wide-receiver Plaxico Burress.

Playing a Giants' team absent several of the players that make the Giants one of the more formidable teams in the NFL certainly is a promising advantage for the Vikings. But the reality of the situation is that the Vikings still face a near must-win situation against a team that has depth at virtually every position, save quarterback.

If Tuck and Cofied sit out, Renaldo Wynn and Jeremy Clark can fill in--that should be good enough to fill holes and allow a linebacking corps led by Antonio Pierce to exert pressure on Tarvaris Jackson. And if Brandon Jacobs is out, the even more brutish Derrick Ward moves up to number one and the equally talented Ahmad Bradshaw becomes the backup--Jacobs has nearly 1100 yards rushing this season, Ward has almost 1000--a nice complement to a Pro Bowl-caliber running back.

Even acknowledging the Giants' depth, however, the Vikings are favored in large part because they are at home, have everything for which to play, have talent at critical positions, and seemingly are aware of the trap before them.

But Vikings' fans have seen this far too many times before. In that game in the desert, the Vikings were all on notice that the game was a trap. Arizona was starting a never-was quarterback and was generally lousy in all phases of the game. The Vikings, conversely, had respectable talent. Only the fact that the Vikings were on the road was cause for alarm among bettors, but, presumably, the Vikings had taken that into account as well. And still, when it mattered most, the Vikings lost.

That should not happen today. But things that ought not to happen always seem to happen to the Vikings.

Up Next: Post-Game or Post-Season?

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