WEEK 16: 7:30 P.M. VS. N. Y. GIANTS • ch. 11 (100.3-FM, 1130-AM)
One man’s prediction: Vikings 23, Giants 13 The Vikings got back in the win column last week by throttling the Bears. Now they get the underachieving Giants, missing their best player, in what could be the Vikings’ final home game at TCF Bank Stadium. This one is in prime time, and that spotlight has not been kind to the Vikings this season. But this is a perfect opportunity for them to atone by beating another inferior opponent. They should take this one easily.
Help is on the way
It has been five weeks since the Vikings had outside linebacker Anthony Barr, safety Harrison Smith and nose tackle Linval Joseph together in a game, but that trio is expected to return after practicing all week. All three are listed as probable, and while they might not take on a normal workload, coach Mike Zimmer thought it was important for them to knock some rust off before playing the Packers next weekend.
Suspend it like Beckham
The Giants will be without star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who was suspended one game after his high-profile meltdown vs. against Panthers last weekend. In 14 games this season, Beckham has 91 catches for 1,396 yards and 13 touchdowns. In his absence, quarterback Eli Manning must turn to Rueben Randle, Dwayne Harris and Hakeem Nicks, who is now a shell of his former self. Advantage: Vikings.
Will it even matter?
Not for the Giants, who were eliminated from playoff contention Saturday. The Vikings can clinch a playoff spot before kicking off if the Seahawks win or the Falcons lose. Plus, if the Packers lose to the Cardinals, next week’s game at Lambeau Field will be for the NFC North title regardless of the outcome Sunday night. Zimmer said he would be cautious with his banged-up players, including running back Adrian Peterson, if this game doesn’t matter. But he says he will still be playing to win.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Teddy Bridgewater, Vikings
The cautious second-year quarterback followed up his dud against the Seahawks with two of his strongest games of the season. In last weekend’s win over the Bears, Bridgewater used a quicker release to become the first Vikings quarterback since Fran Tarkenton to throw four touchdown passes and run for another in the same game. Bridgewater will need to keep it up if the Vikings are to go deep this postseason.