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How They Compare

NFC CHAMPIONSHIP

January 13, 2001|ROY JURGENS

QUARTERBACKS

ADVANTAGE: MINNESOTA

The Giants' Kerry Collins resurrected his career with a fine season, but it's hard to argue against the Vikings' Daunte Culpepper. The 255-pounder threw for 33 touchdowns, rushed for seven and was named to the Pro Bowl in his first season as a starter.

RUNNING BACKS

ADVANTAGE: TIE

Tiki Barber and Ron Dayne deliver a solid 1-2 punch for the Giants. However, neither has the game-breaking ability of the Vikings' Robert Smith.

RECEIVERS

ADVANTAGE: MINNESOTA

Quite simply, Randy Moss and Cris Carter are the best wide receiver combination in the NFL. Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard have been hot and cold.

OFFENSIVE LINE

ADVANTAGE: MINNESOTA

Led by Kory Stringer and Matt Birk, Minnesota's behemoth line paved the way for a running game that led the NFL for much of the season. The Vikings held the Saints' pass rush (66 sacks, best in the NFL) to zero sacks last week. Tackle Lomas Brown and Ron Stone front a solid Giant unit.

DEFENSIVE LINE

ADVANTAGE: NEW YORK

Keith Hamilton and Michael Strahan could make life miserable for the Vikings' rushing game by sealing off running lanes. John Randle leads an undersized Viking unit that rotates players to keep them fresh.

LINEBACKERS

ADVANTAGE: NEW YORK

The Vikings field an athletic crew led by Dwayne Rudd. But Giants Jesse Armstead and Micheal Barrow are far more consistent, especially against the run.

SECONDARY

ADVANTAGE: TIE

Each team fields one Pro Bowl-caliber defensive back--the Giants Jason Sehorn, the Vikings Robert Griffith--surrounded by a bunch of question marks. The Giants gave up nearly 230 yards passing a game, playing primarily against NFC East and AFC Central opponents, divisions not known for their passing games.

COACHING

ADVANTAGE: TIE

Dennis Green and Jim Fassell have made questionable moves during their careers but who among NFL experts expected their teams to be meeting in the NFC championship game? Both coaches have learned through mistakes and rely on coordinators for most of their play calling.

SPECIAL TEAMS

ADVANTAGE: MINNESOTA

Rookie Ron Dixon's kickoff return for a touchdown set the tone for the Giants' victory last Sunday. Yet, the Vikings' kicking and coverage units are far superior to New York's.

THE INTANGIBLES

ADVANTAGE: NEW YORK

Playing at home can make all the difference. Dome teams are only 9-33 all-time on the road in the playoffs. An icy 30-mph wind swirling around the Meadowlands would be like a 12th man on the field for the Giants.

THE STRATEGY

The Giants want to take an early lead and keep the Vikings' offense off the field with a power running game. Minnesota will look to stretch the Giants' defense deep, exploit seams in zone coverage and make Collins play a game of catch-up.

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