In the 2015 regular season's penultimate game, the Vikings will host the NY Giants in what is the final regular season game the team will play at TCF Bank Stadium before moving into its new home – U.S. Bank Stadium – for the start of the 2016 season. But the Vikings can continue moving toward hosting a postseason game at their temporary stadium by defeating the Giants and keeping alive the chances for a NFC North championship game next week at Lambeau Field. The playoff chase is just one of the storylines to chase this week as the Vikings prepare to play the Giants.
Here are five of the biggest Vikings-Giants storylines we'll be chasing in the build-up to Week 16...
1. A chance to clinch a playoff berth and shake the prime time blues
The Vikings have been told all season they can't win in prime time. Losses in Week 1 to San Francisco on Monday Night Football and in Week 14 to Arizona on Thursday Night Football, in addition to losses against high-quality opponents such as Denver, Green Bay and Seattle, have given ammo to those who continue to hammer this point. This week's game, which was flexed two weeks ago into the Sunday Night Football time slot, is the next chance for the Vikings to shake that stigma and they can do so while also clinching a playoff spot. A win will qualify the Vikings for the postseason, but the Vikings can also qualify earlier in the day on Sunday with either an Atlanta Falcons loss or a Seattle Seahawks win.
2. Bridgewater looks to stay hot in December cold
Teddy Bridgewater authored perhaps the best performance of his career last week against Chicago, throwing more TDs (4) than incompletions (3) and also running for a TD. The scintillating performance is nothing new for Bridgewater in the cold month of December. In six career December games, Bridgewater has now completed 73.1% of his passes for an average of 276.3 passing yards per game with an 11-5 TD-INT ratio and a passer rating of 111.6 rating; that passer rating is the third-best among active players in the NFL, trailing only Tony Romo (133.7) and Cam Newton (112.4). Bridgewater will look to stay hot as the weather gets colder and the intensity increases this Sunday night.
3. Odell Beckham, Jr. suspension looms large
As the Vikings and Giants began on-field preparations Wednesday for their game on Sunday night, they did so still unsure of whether New York would have their best offensive playmaker – WR Odell Beckham, Jr. The second-year pass-catcher was suspended earlier in the week for on-field actions in last Sunday's game against Carolina, but he's now appealing the suspension. A decision on the appeal is expected quickly but as of this posting no word had been handed down. Beckham, Jr. leads the Giants in all major receiving statistical categories, including receptions, receiving yards and receiving TDs. His 13 receiving TDs are tied for first in the NFL and his 1,396 receiving yards rank third.
4. Adrian Peterson closing in on rushing title, 10-TD mark
Speaking of leading the NFL, Adrian Peterson is the NFL's rushing leader heading into Week 15 with 1,314 yards. He's been the NFL rushing champion twice in his career (2008, 2012) and the NFC's rushing leader three times (2007, 2008, 2012). Peterson, who was named to his seventh Pro Bowl on Tuesday, is also one TD away from his 10th of the season, and if he reaches the mark he will join Emmitt Smith (8) and LaDainian Tomlinson (9) as the only RBs in the NFL history to have 8+ seasons of 10 rushing TDs.
5. Defense closer to welcoming big three back to lineup
The Vikings will be the last team to overlook an opponent missing its best player, which the Giants may be doing on Sunday night. That's because the Vikings defense over the last several weeks has been missing multiple key players each week, most notably Anthony Barr, Linval Joseph and Harrison Smith. Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has sounded optimistic each of the last two weeks that some or all of them are getting closer to be able to play, and it's expected that optimism will only continue in the early stages of the team's preparation for Sunday night's game.