8:30 PM ET, October 21, 2013
MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
Josh Freeman's job as Tampa Bay's starting quarterback seemed safe after receiving a vote of confidence from his former coach two days before being benched.
It doesn't appear Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier will be making any empty promises.
Freeman was named the starter for Minnesota's road contest against the winless New York Giants on Monday night, which comes less than two weeks after he signed with the club.
Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano publicly stated Sept. 23 that Freeman, who completed an NFL-low 45.7 percent of his passes with a dismal passer rating of 59.3 as Tampa dropped its first three games, would be the team's starting quarterback despite his struggles.
Freeman, though, was told soon after he would be benched in favor of rookie Mike Glennon. He was granted his release Oct. 3 and signed a one-year contract with Minnesota (1-4) on Oct. 8.
The 25-year-old former first-round pick now will be tasked with helping to improve a Vikings offense that gained 290 yards in last week's 35-10 home loss to Carolina and has committed 12 turnovers on the season.
"Any time you step into a situation where you're the new guy, there's always kind of an awkward getting-to-know-you phase," Freeman said. "But I think that goes back to the character of this organization just from top to bottom -- a lot of quality people that are dedicated to winning first and foremost. So it's been a smooth adjustment."
Frazier is hoping Freeman can overcome this season's issues and revert back to last year's form, when he threw for career highs of 4,065 yards and 27 touchdowns.
"I like the things he's done in his career, along with what he's done since he arrived here with our football team, the time he put in, how well he's adapted to our system," Frazier said. "He's done enough for us to say we want to give him this opportunity, which is something we had in mind when we acquired him. I think now is the time."
Freeman also should have the benefit of having Adrian Peterson in the backfield. Peterson missed Wednesday's practice to attend the funeral of his 2-year-old son, but he said he plans to play this week after rushing for 62 yards on 10 carries against Carolina.
"I'm standing strong, man. I am," Peterson said. "My main focus has been on my son. ... Just trying to wrap my head around things and trying to stay focused and play ball as well. So things have been tough, but I can handle a lot. I'm built for anything that comes my way. This right here will pass."
Frazier said Ponder will serve as Freeman's backup Monday.
"The underlying questions I've been getting from a lot of people: `Do I have a chip on my shoulder?' I'm sure I do," Freeman said. "But I think it's more deeply rooted than just the past six months, 12 months."
His first test with the Vikings comes against a Giants team that has all sorts of issues, including with their two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback, Eli Manning.
New York (0-6) is off to its worst start since it lost a franchise-worst nine straight to open the 1976 season. Manning finished 14 of 26 for 239 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions in last Thursday's 27-21 loss to Chicago, with one pick being returned for a touchdown.
He's thrown a league-worst 15 interceptions to match his total from all of last season, and his 64.0 passer rating is third-worst in the NFL -- one spot ahead of Freeman.
Though Manning will be facing a Minnesota defense that ranks 29th against the pass allowing an average of 308.0 yards, the Giants have committed a league-high 23 turnovers and have lost 11 of their last 14 games after missing last year's playoffs despite a 6-2 start.
"It's not fun playing this game and losing and not feeling like you're helping your team," Manning said. "But it's not going to change the way I treat each day or treat each practice and treat the games. I'm going to compete. I'm going to work hard and do whatever I can do to try to put our team in a situation to win a game."
One bright spot has been the emergence of veteran Brandon Jacobs, who rushed 22 times for 106 yards and two touchdowns against Chicago. David Wilson was the No. 1 back entering the season, but he's battling a neck injury.
Jacobs has a sore hamstring and the team signed former 1,000-yard rusher Peyton Hillis this week, but Jacobs said he plans to play Monday.
"I'm not missing any game," Jacobs said. "Straight up, that's all there is in a nutshell. I am not counting on being down."
Jacobs ran for 116 yards and a touchdown while Peterson was held to 26 yards on 14 carries as the Giants beat the Vikings 21-3 in the most recent meeting Dec. 13, 2010, ending a four-game skid against Minnesota.
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|Avg Points Allowed||30.2||30.9|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||MIN|
|Rush Yds Allowed||MIN|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Series tied 5-5|
|Dec 13, 2010||MIN 3, NYG 21|
|Jan 3, 2010||MIN 44, NYG 7|
|Dec 28, 2008||MIN 20, NYG 19|
|Nov 25, 2007||MIN 41, @NYG 17|
|Nov 13, 2005||MIN 24, @NYG 21|
|Oct 31, 2004||MIN 13, NYG 34|
|Oct 26, 2003||MIN 17, NYG 29|
|Nov 10, 2002||MIN 20, NYG 27|
|Nov 19, 2001||MIN 28, NYG 16|
So far in Week 7, five teams - Buffalo, Carolina, Miami, New England and the New York Jets - all had interception-return touchdowns, contributing to a league-wide total of 30 this season. With two more on Monday night, 2013 would surpass 2003 for the most interception-return touchdowns through the first seven weeks of a season.[+]
Most Interceptions Returned for TD - Through Week 7, Since 1970
Adrian Peterson has averaged 6.1 yards per rush his last two games after averaging 4.1 yards per rush in his first three games. The jump in production coincides with fullback Jerome Felton's return from suspension.[+]
ESPN Stats & Information