Can Giants Outscore Vikings?

If the rest of the New York Giants are thinking like Tiki Barber, they might be in trouble.

Or maybe his confident air is just what they need for Sunday's NFC championship game against the high-powered Minnesota Vikings.

``This is a Minnesota team that can score, and we know that,'' Barber said. ``We're going to have to match them.''

Match them? That would be impressive, considering the Vikings (12-5) scored 69 more points than the Giants (13-4). And that Minnesota brings Pro Bowl receivers Randy Moss and Cris Carter - the most dangerous duo in the league - and NFC rushing leader Robert Smith.

But why shouldn't the Giants be optimistic? They've won six straight, taking home-field advantage away from the Vikings for this game. Minnesota isn't built for cold-weather games in a windy stadium, which usually is the setting for the Meadowlands in January.

``We've got a big game coming against a very good team,'' defensive end Michael Strahan said. ``It's a team that is very explosive, with more big-time players than anyone else. We've got our work cut out for us.''

Especially if they get into a shootout. The Giants have an improved offense compared to recent years - quarterback Kerry Collins has been steady, Barber has been a revelation as a runner and receiver, the rebuilt line has been far better than anyone predicted and wideouts Ike Hilliard and Amani Toomer can break big plays. But a 30-27 score doesn't suit them.

``Each team is different,'' Giants coach Jim Fassel said. ``You have to play it a little differently. This is a team that can put a lot of points up real quick. So as we go through this week, I'll be thinking of a lot of things and how we'll deal with that, and how it will all come together in the game plan.''

However it comes together, the Giants have history on their side.

The surprise team of the NFL's final four, they are an underdog at home for Sunday's game, But when the Giants get this close to a conference title, they close the deal.

In 1986, the Giants were 14-2, easily the league's best mark. They won their final nine regular-season games, finished 8-0 at home, had a dominating defense and solid, ball-control offense.

And they went unchallenged in the NFC playoffs, routing the 49ers and Redskins before winning the Super Bowl 39-20 over Denver.

Four years later, with a similar team, they went 13-3, but were an underdog at San Francisco in the NFC title game. The Giants won 15-13 on five field goals by Matt Bahr, then upset Buffalo 20-19 in the Super Bowl.

Not a bad resume: two shots at the big game, two trips to the big game, two Super Bowl championships.

``I've spoken to the players about not focusing on the Super Bowl,'' Fassel said. ``Obviously, there are four teams left, and everyone has got to be answering the same questions: `What about the Super Bowl?' Timeout.

``We are focusing on the title game of the NFC. ... We have got to take care of this one and not stub our toe.''