Our New York Giants are in Minnesota Sunday for a game against the Vikings that the Giants have to win to keep pace in the crowded NFC playoff picture. Here are the key things I will be watching on Sunday.
1. Adrian Peterson vs. the Giants front seven (or eight ... or nine): No matter whether Brett Favre or Tarvaris Jackson plays quarterback for the Vikings (and do you have any doubt it will be Favre?) Minnesota will feature a heavy dose of Peterson, the game's best running back. Can the Giants handle him?
The Giants are seventh in the league against the run (98 yards per game), but they have been gashed on occasion. Can they get away with the three-safety package defensive coordinator Perry Fewell loves so much? Probably not in a game where they will have to stuff the line of scrimmage. That means more snaps for Keith Bulluck, and more importance for middle linebacker Jonathan Goff and outside linebacker Michael Boley.
It means the Giants will have to control the line of scrimmage, and it means that Antrel Rolle, Deon Grant and the Giants' corners can't miss tackles on the edges.
2. David Diehl vs. Jared Allen: It seems pretty certain that Diehl is going to return to the left tackle spot after missing the last four games. He will face a stern test in Allen, a three-time Pro Bowler who has 8.5 sacks this season. The Giants, of course, have not given up a sack in five games. I doubt they leave Diehl out there alone very often. They have been doing a lot of chipping with backs and tight ends, and using an extra tackle to help in pass protection. I don't think that is going to change with Diehl back in the lineup.
3. Brett Favre: Of course he has to be on this list. Will he play? How effective will he be? If he plays, can the Giants get to him and knock him around -- or back to the sidelines?
4. The Giants' passing attack: It is great to have Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith back as the starting wide receivers. How sharp will they be? How much more varied will the passing attack look? Specifically, can they hit a couple of shots down the field with all of their primary weapons back in action?