EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -Pro Bowl linebacker Antonio Pierce is concerned about the Minnesota Vikings and it has nothing to do with their big offensive line or talented running backs.
When Pierce thinks of the Vikings, his mind drifts to 2005. The New York Giants were cruising to the NFC East title and an inconsistent Minnesota team came to Giants Stadium in November and beat them 24-21, becoming the first NFL team to score on a punt, kickoff and interception return in the same game.
``It was kind of like now,'' Pierce recalled. ``They were struggling, the quarterback situation was this, they weren't running the ball as well, of course, but you look at that game and you wonder: 'Why? How did that happen?' ``
The answer was simple. The Giants turned over the ball five times and Minnesota used its only drive of the game to set up a winning late field goal.
It turned out to be a trap game, and the Giants (7-3) will be facing it again on Sunday when they play the Vikings (4-6) at Giants Stadium.
A win would keep New York two games behind Dallas (10-1) in the NFC East, and would also open a two-game lead in the wild-card race, because Detroit (6-5) lost to Green Bay (10-1) on Thanksgiving.
Minnesota could get back in the wild-card hunt by winning consecutive games for the first time this season.
``That is the only way we are going to have a chance to get to the playoffs,'' said Vikings safety Darren Sharper, who scored on a 92-yard interception return here two years ago.
Beating the Giants will be tough. After losing its first two games, New York has won seven of its last eight, including a win in Detroit last weekend. It's only losses have been to Dallas (twice) and Green Bay.
``I think the one thing we have done this year pretty well is we have beaten the teams that we are supposed to beat,'' Giants receiver Amani Toomer said. ``I remember the last time they came in here. We can't do that again.''
This is a game that should be decided in the trenches. The Vikings have the NFL's best running attack (177.9) and the league's top run defense (74.4).
New York plays its best when it can mix the pass with the run and the Giants are ranked No. 7 in rushing (128.0) and rushing defense (91.3).
Both teams probably will be using backup halfbacks this week.
Chester Taylor likely will start for the Vikings for the second straight time with Adrian Peterson bothered by a sprained knee. He rushed for 164 yards last week in a 29-22 win over Oakland.
``It's not a surprise to us,'' Vikings center Matt Birk said of Taylor. ``Last year, Chester did a great job the entire year. He's been overshadowed a little bit by Adrian and the job he's done, but certainly we love having Chester back there and certainly I'll take him on my team any time.''
The Giants are also concerned about the Vikings' big offensive line, which features tackle Bryant McKinnie and guard Steve Hutchinson on the left side.
``They have a great offensive line that opens up the holes and if you are not disciplined, and even if you are disciplined, they still seem to find ways to get yards,'' Giants defensive end Michael Strahan said.
If New York can handle the run, Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson will have to worry about facing a defense that has 34 sacks.
``We don't want to get into a passing situation where they know we are passing the football and their ears are pinned back, because they are already pretty good at rushing the passer,'' Jackson said. ``When you know it is a pass, that makes them even tougher to block.''
The Giants will have one change on defense this week: Reggie Torbor will replace the injured Mathias Kiwanuka (broken leg) at strongside linebacker.
Offensively, Reuben Droughns is expected to became the third starting halfback for the Giants. Starter Brandon Jacobs pulled a hamstring last week and backup Derrick Ward is working his way back from ankle and groin injuries.
Droughns is experienced, having rushed for more than 1,200 yards with Denver and Cleveland in 2004 and '05.
``I've got a lot in me,'' Droughns said. ``We'll show you guys on Sunday.''
If Droughns struggles, it will be up to Eli Manning to have a big day against the Vikings' pass defense, which is ranked last in the league.
``We are going to have to score points, and the last game we had two turnovers when we were getting close to the red zone,'' Manning said. ``So we just have to continue to make plays and just eliminate some of the mistakes that hurt us in not scoring points.''
The Giants have scored 13, 20 and 16 in their last three games as their offense has either turned the ball over or sputtered near the goal line.
If they do that again this weekend, the Vikings may stun them again.
``They won the game, but it was a few years ago and now we're totally different,'' Strahan said. ``Half of this team, if not more than half of this team, wasn't here two or three years ago, so we can't base anything on the past. It doesn't mean anything.''

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