EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Monday night will mark back-to-back night games between the Vikings and Giants, but Minnesota Head Coach Mike Zimmer said the difference between New York in Week 16 of 2015 and the squad of 2016 is more like night and day.
Ben McAdoo has replaced Tom Coughlin, who resigned in January after 12 seasons with the Giants that included wins in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI, as head coach.
Although McAdoo was promoted from serving as New York's offensive coordinator for two seasons, the Giants roster has undergone considerable change.
New York was highly active during free agency on the defensive side of the ball. Of the 11 defenders who started against the Vikings, only five remain. Four — Jason Pierre-Paul, Jonathan Casillas, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Landon Collins — are listed as starters.
The Giants biggest moves were signing DE Olivier Vernon, DT Damon Harrison LB Kelvin Sheppard and CB Janoris Jenkins, but New York's secondary has been hit hard by injuries.
Although the Giants returned all five offensive line starters and Eli Manning, the offense will have a different vibe from last year as well for three unique reasons. Victor Cruz has returned to action after battling protracted injuries, Odell Beckham, Jr. missed last year's game because of a suspension and Sterling Shepard was added during the draft.
"I don't even know if you can look at last year's game, because they've got three guys missing as receivers, and they have eight new starters on defense. So, it's a completely different football team, and it's not going to be 10 degrees or whatever it was."
Officially, it was 13 degrees Fahrenheit with a Wind Chill of 2 at kickoff.
On the Giants o-line
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said the Giants offensive line features talented players in addition to the continuity.
"They've been good. They've got three really high picks in there. They've got two first rounders (Ereck Flowers and Justin Pugh), a second rounder (Weston Richburg), they've got good players," Zimmer said. "I think they've been doing a good job. Manning is doing a good job of getting the ball out, and obviously he's got a lot of weapons."
Everson Griffen has claimed two NFC Defensive Player of the Week Awards in a four-game span, and the Vikings have garnered five in a row dating back to Blair Walsh against the Giants last season.
Part of the key to Griffen's success is a philosophy that was shared with him by a former coach at Southern Cal, Jethro Franklin, who advised him, "See a little; see a lot."
"If I'm looking at your shoulder pad tip, I'm going to see that movement, but if I'm looking in the backfield and not looking at your shoulder tip, then I'm everywhere," Griffen said. "If I see the tip of the pad move, it's going to take me to the ball."
The Vikings did well against the Panthers explosive run attack that averaged 166.5 yards per game the first two weeks of the season and held them to 105 yards on 28 carries (3.8 per attempt).
Brian Robison was a guest on The Jim Rome Show* *on Friday and said there's "something different" about the way that this year's Vikings squad approaches challenges.
"We've got a lot of young guys on this team. They go out there and practice every day like they are a vet, like they've done this before," Robison said. "They know what they need to do in order to be successful on Sundays. It doesn't matter the situation or how tired or sore we are on Wednesdays, we're going to put the pads on. We're going to buckle up, we're going to be physical, and we're going to try and bring that mentality on Sunday as well. Really and truly, at the end of the day, we are trying to impose our will on our opponents."
Wrap 'em up
The Vikings totaled four sacks in last year's matchup with the Giants and have had at least four in five of their past six regular-season games, including eight of Cam Newton last week.
Juxtaposed against Minnesota's ability of getting to quarterbacks and wrapping them up, Brian Robison asked teammates, who on the team gives the best "man hugs." Check out this week's episode of "96 Questions."
For the Vikings: Anthony Barr (wrist), Jerick McKinnon (toe), Xavier Rhodes (knee) and MyCole Pruitt (knee) participated fully. Stefon Diggs (groin), Zach Line (knee) and Alex Boone (hip) were limited. David Morgan (knee) and Sharrif Floyd (knee) did not participate.
For the Giants: CB Eli Apple (hamstring), S Nat Berhe (concussion), T Marshall Newhouse (calf), Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (groin), DT Robert Thomas (illness) and S Darian Thompson (foot) did not participate. RB Rashad Jennings (thumb) was limited. DE Olivier Vernon (wrist) fully participated.