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Giants vs. Vikings Storylines: What to watch for

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1. PLAYOFF PICTURE

With two games to play, four of the six NFC playoff spots have been clinched. Carolina locked up the NFC South title and a first-round bye, Arizona won the NFC West, Seattle has a Wild Card berth, and so does Green Bay at minimum.


NEWS
> Odell Beckham Jr. suspended one game
> Rashad Jennings nominated for award
> NFC East Roundup: Week 15
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> Highlights: Panthers 38, Giants 35

The Packers are still in the hunt for the NFC North title, and their main competition is the Vikings, the Giants' upcoming opponent. Big Blue looks for its third-straight victory over Minnesota in their Week 16 matchup that was flexed to primetime on Sunday night.

The Giants (6-8) can still win the NFC East, but they need help. They need to win their final two games against the Vikings (9-5) and Eagles (6-8) while the Redskins (7-7) must lose the rest of theirs to the Eagles and Cowboys (4-10). Otherwise, the Giants will be eliminated.

Here are the latest NFC playoff scenarios for Week 16:

• Washington clinches NFC East division with: WAS win OR WAS tie NYG loss

• Minnesota clinches a playoff spot with: MIN win or tie OR ATL loss or tie OR SEA win or tie

• Carolina clinches home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with: CAR win or tie OR ARI loss or tie.

• Arizona clinches a first-round bye with: ARI win or tie.

• Green Bay clinches NFC North division with: GB win MIN loss or tie OR GB tie MIN loss.

"Full speed ahead, that's how you handle it," coach Tom Coughlin said. "We just talked about that, and we looked each other in the eye, and we've got to have two great weeks of practice starting right now."

2. ODELL SUSPENDED

Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has been suspended for the Giants' Week 16 game against the Vikings for "multiple violations of safety-related playing rules in [Sunday's] game against the Carolina Panthers," the NFL announced Monday. The suspension was imposed by NFL Vice President of Football Operations Merton Hanks, who ruled that Beckham's actions "placed his opponents at unnecessary risk of injury and should have been avoided."

Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Beckham has the right to appeal, which he will do Wednesday when he meets with appeals officer James Thrash, who, along with Derrick Brooks, is jointly appointed by the NFL and NFLPA to decide appeals of on-field player discipline.

The conduct of other players in the Panthers-Giants game is being reviewed for potential discipline in the form of fines, the NFL said.

3. APPLE DOESN'T FALL FAR FROM THE COACHING TREE

Tom Coughlin has two. Bill Belichick has four. Sean Payton has one. The branches of Bill Parcells' coaching tree have produced seven Lombardi Trophies. Throw in the two the Pro Football Hall of Famer won with the Giants, and that's nine Super Bowl titles. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is looking to add to that total. Zimmer, who was Parcells' defensive coordinator in Dallas from 2003-06, has ensured a winning record for Minnesota in his second year as head coach. The Vikings could also have a playoff spot wrapped up before they hit the field on Sunday.

"I don't feel too good about it yet," Zimmer told Minnesota reporters. "Our goal really isn't to get into the playoffs. Our goal is to win the division first."

4. RUNNING GAME 'A GOOD SIGN'

Lost in Sunday's events was the Giants' ability to run the ball against a top-five defense. Led by Rashad Jennings, who carried the ball 16 times for 107 yards and a touchdown, the Giants rushed for 161 yards as a team, their highest total since Week 3 of last season when they ran for 193 against Houston. It was the second-straight game Jennings had more than 80 rushing yards after not doing so since Nov. 30, 2014.

"I thought we did that better than anything for quite some time [on Sunday]," Coughlin said of running the ball. "That proved out that we are getting better at that. Rashad had some nice runs. Shane [Vereen] had some nice runs. Andre [Williams] had a couple runs. I thought that was a real plus even when things weren't going very well for us. But then at the end, when we were able to maneuver back and forth and Rashad breaks out of there for a big play, I thought that was a good sign for us."

5. TALE OF THE TAPE

Playmakers on the Vikings first-team offense, defense, and special teams, presented by Nike

Led by Adrian Peterson, the NFL's leading rusher in attempts and yards through 15 weeks, Minnesota is fifth in rushing at 131.6 yards per game. Through the air, second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and the Vikings are second-to-last in the NFL is passing (192.0). However, Bridgewater is coming off a career performance, completing 17 of 20 passes for 231 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions in a 38-17 victory over Chicago. The four touchdowns doubled his previous best for a single game.

Defensively, Zimmer took over a last-place unit and has built it into the No. 8 defense in scoring in two seasons. Minnesota is No. 13 in total yards allowed (342.4), No. 7 against the pass (229.5) and No. 20 against the run (112.9). Minnesota is No. 15 in sacks with 34 on the season, five of which came last week against the Bears.

On special teams, Cordarrelle Patterson is No. 1 in the NFL in averaging 31.1 yards per kickoff return. He has taken two to the house this season: a 93-yarder in Oakland in Week 10 and a 101-yarder against Seattle in Week 13. Blair Walsh is tied for 5th in the NFL with 27 field goals made, including four from 50 yards or more.

Photo timeline from the Giants Week 15 matchup vs. the Carolina Panthers

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