This year is the best Eli Manning has ever played in the regular season.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction -Even though when all is said and done, Eli's numbers from this season might be better than they were in 2011, I still think he played better in the Giants' last Super Bowl season. Manning was so good in 4th quarters in 2011, he was singularly responsible for winning a lot of games that year. In fourth quarters in 2011, Manning threw for 1,715 yards, completed 66% of his passes and threw 15 touchdowns to only 6 interceptions. He epitomized the team's motto of "finish". He hasn't finished games as well this year, so I'll go with 2011.
DAN SALOMONE: Fiction -He is on pace to break Y.A. Tittle's franchise record of 36 touchdown passes, which the Pro Football Hall of Famer set in 1963. However, if anything is true about Eli Manning, the man is more about wins than stats. And that's why the magic of his 2011 campaign is hard to top. Contrary to this season, he and the Giants came out on top in all of the thrillers. And for the stat-lovers, he came 67 yards short of a 5,000-yard season, which has only been done eight times in the history of the NFL.
LANCE MEDOW: Fact -If the season was to end right now, Eli Manning would set career-highs in completion percentage (63.7), touchdown passes (32), quarterback rating (66.3) and passer rating (96.1). His 11 interceptions are the second lowest total in his career in a season in which he's been the starter the whole season. Based on the team record, it's easy to overlook Manning's production this season, but if you look at his individual numbers, his decision-making and the fact that he hasn't had a consistent running game, I think this has been his best regular season. In his second season in Ben McAdoo's offense, Manning seems to be in a real comfort zone. He began the season without an interception in his first 142 pass attempts over three-plus games (second-longest stretch of his career), had a career-high six touchdown passes against the Saints in Week 8, posted a career-high and regular season franchise record 87 completion percentage in Week 14 against the Dolphins, and threw for four touchdowns in back-to-back games in the same season for the first time in his career. Schmeelk brought up the 2011 season when Manning was 'Mr. 4th quarter' and helped finish one game after another, but keep in mind this season he orchestrated a game-winning eight-play, 82-yard drive against the 49ers in Week 5 and helped set up the go-ahead or game-tying scores in the fourth quarter of the Patriots and Panthers games, including the first 28-point comeback in franchise history.
The Giants will rush for 100 yards this week after having 161 vs. Carolina.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact -The Giants went for 100 yards as a team last week and ran for 92 the week prior against the Dolphins. They are running it better than they have all season long. That being said, with Beckham's absence due to suspension, the Vikings will not have to keep a safety deep, which will allow them to pay more attention to the run. The nature of the Vikings attack, on the other hand, dictates this will likely be a close game in which the Giants can stick with the run. I think they get to a 100 even if they don't have a dominant yards-per-carry average.
DAN SALOMONE: Fact -Their recent success on the ground, the style of their opponent, and the one-game suspension of Odell Beckham Jr. could add up to a run-heavy game on both sides. And don't forget the elements as the primetime game will be played outdoors at TCF Bank Stadium.
LANCE MEDOW: Fiction -The Giants will be without two contributors coming off their best rushing performance of the season: Odell Beckham and Nikita Whitlock. Beckham's presence creates favorable opportunities for other receivers, but, most importantly, it forces the opposing defense to keep its safeties deeper on the field because of his playmaking ability. Without Beckham, the Vikings defense now has some additional flexibility in how it will use its personnel. When asked about the impressive rushing numbers in Sunday's loss to the Panthers, the first player Tom Coughlin credited was Whitlock, whose blocking opened up plenty of holes for Rashad Jennings and company, so don't overlook his absence as well. On top of that, the Giants have yet to post back-to-back games with at least 100 rushing yards this season. In Week 7, they ran for 132 yards against the Cowboys but followed that up with 87 against the Saints, and in Week 9 they tallied 114 yards on the ground only to pile up 80 the following week against the Patriots.
Stopping Adrian Peterson is the Giants' top priority against the Vikings.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact -The Vikings want to run the ball and then pass off of play-action. That only works if Adrian Peterson is moving the ball on first and second down with some level of consistency. If the Giants can consistently get Teddy Bridgewater into third and long, they'll have great opportunities to get off the field. The Vikings don't have elite playmakers outside. They want to win the game by grinding away with Adrian Peterson.
DAN SALOMONE: Fact -It all starts with stopping No. 28. If the Giants don't, it "will be a long day," defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said. Peterson, who was just named to his seventh Pro Bowl, is the identity of that team, and the Giants will need to be gap-sound and gang tackle to stop him.
LANCE MEDOW: Fact -When Adrian Peterson has run for at least 100 yards this season, the Vikings are 6-0. When he's collected less than 100, they're 3-5. Peterson's production essentially dictates wins and losses. Like Carolina, Minnesota's offense revolves around the running game, which ranks fifth in the NFL (132 yards per game). On the flip side, the Vikings are only averaging 192 passing yards per contest (31st NFL). When Teddy Bridgewater has attempted 32 or more passes in a game this season, the Vikings are 1-4, compared to 8-1 when he throws less than 32 times. The Giants need to make Minnesota a one-dimensional offense with more emphasis on the passing game.
The Pro Bowl is the best all-star game in professional sports.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction -This is a joke of a question right? The very nature of the sport of football makes playing an exhibition difficult at best. No one wants to hit one another for fear of injury, making the Pro Bowl barely real football. The baseball All-Star game is as close to a real game as you get, with the NBA All-Star game and its lack of defense right behind. The last six minutes of the NBA All-Star game, if it's close, is usually good, since at that point pride takes over and both teams want to win.
DAN SALOMONE: Fiction -The Pro Bowl gets a lot of heat for the lack of defense, but it's not like they're grinding out possessions in the NBA All-Star Game. The tweaks in recent years to the Pro Bowl have made it more interesting with Hall of Famers as team captains as opposed to teams by conference. But even so, you just can't beat the Midsummer Classic and its Home Run Derby.
LANCE MEDOW: Fiction -The NFL has made an effort to spice things up in recent years with a new roster structure and tweaks to the rules, but most of the top players in the league pull out of the game either due to injuries or because they are worn out from a lengthy season. The Midsummer Classic is by far the best all-star game because it's the most competitive and resembles as close to a regular season game as possible. Even though I don't think the game should determine home field advantage in the World Series, I still think it's the most enjoyable to watch. The NBA All-Star Game doesn't get interesting until both teams decide to play defense in the fourth quarter, and the NHL All-Star Game is essentially an offensive clinic.