The New York Giants have a pretty good hunch what to expect from Minnesota with newcomer Josh Freeman taking over at quarterback for the struggling Vikings.
Adrian Peterson to the left. A.P. to the right. Peterson more often than not in the nationally televised game on Monday night between two of the league's biggest flops this season.
The Giants (0-6) are reasonably sure Freeman isn't going to know the offense totally after just a couple of weeks with the Vikings (1-4). That leaves Peterson to carry the load off, and that's not a bad option with the halfback coming one of the best rushing seasons in league history.
"I think he's a different guy," Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said when asked to compare him to some of the better backs in the league. "I watched him in the offseason study and he's really good. I see guys hit him, tackle him, beat him up, punch him and he just keeps coming. He's got an iron will, and he's just a strong runner, and he's got a great determination to make those yards, and so we all have to be on the same page. We'll have to swarm tackle. We'll have to gang tackle. We'll have to see what we hit and hit what we see."
Freeman is the bigger question mark for the Giants defense, which has given up a league-high 209 points. He was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier this month after a miserable start and signed by Minnesota because starter Christian Ponder hurt his ribs. Ponder is expected to be the backup this week.
Freeman started 59 games over four-plus seasons in Tampa with his best being in 2010 when he threw 25 touchdowns and six interceptions. He had four TDs and 12 interceptions in his last six games and his quarterback rating of 59.3 this season was last in the league when he was released.
"From the moment he stepped in the building, he wanted to learn. And the way he handled himself in that practice, it changed my mindset about the possibilities," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "We had a timeframe in mind originally, but watching what he did from the day he arrived, that cemented it for me that sooner was a possibility."
When he was with Carolina, Giants middle linebacker Jon Beason played against Freeman a lot, and he knows the quarterback is a competitor.
"He's more than capable, he's a good dude," said Beason, who had a team-high 12 tackles against the Bears on Oct. 10 in his first start. "I know him personally, and he can make all the throws, he scrambles better than people think, so not having him on tape kind of hurts us on the defensive side because it leaves you guessing."
Beason said the Giants need to stop the run first, something the team has done well in recent games LeSean McCoy of the Eagles and Matt Forte.
Peterson, who rushed for 2,097 yards last season, is special, Beason said. But it's a challenge he relishes.
"That's how you define yourself," Beason said. "It's all about what you do against `the man.' If he's the standard, then you want to see where you measure up."
With the Vikings trailing against Carolina last week, Peterson was limited to 62 yards on 10 carries, a season-high 6.2 yard average. He was limited at practice on Thursday and Saturday and did not practice on Friday because of a hamstring injury. He has been listed as probable for the game.
The Giants running game is a more iffy with Brandon Jacobs also fighting a hamstring. He did not practice on Saturday and is questionable for the game. If he can't go, the Giants will have to use either veteran newcomer Peyton Hollis, who was signed this week, rookie Michael Cox or feature fullback John Conner.
The result is the Giants might have to rely more on Eli Manning, who leads the league with 15 interceptions.
The only certainty is that this is a game between two teams desperate for a win.
"Certainly we have to approach it that way in our preparation, and when we're on the flight to go over there we have to approach this with a must-win mentality," Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway said. "And our coaches need to coach like that. Our players need to play like that. We just have to have that approach all week, that every game at this point is a must win."