The Vikings and Broncos haven't faced off since 2015 and have only played each other 14 times (excluding preseason).
But that doesn't mean there is no familiarity between the teams who will meet at noon (CT) Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Broncos Head Coach Vic Fangio most recently spent four seasons as the Bears defensive coordinator and game-planned for the Vikings offense twice a year.
Fangio spoke with Twin Cities media members via conference call on Wednesday and did point out that Minnesota's offensive system is much different this season than in 2018. But there is carryover as far as the personnel, including running back Dalvin Cook.
"I see a guy that's capable of hitting a home run every time he touches the ball. He runs harder than people realize, and a lot of guys bounce off of him," Fangio said of Cook, who currently is leading the NFL in rushing and is the reigning NFC Offensive Player of the Week. "He's not just a fast, quick back; he's a fast, elusive back that, when it comes time for contact, he breaks and runs through tackles. To me, he's a complete back. Plus, he's gotten over 400 yards in the passing game. So, he's a big part of their offense.
"When I was in Chicago, he missed [the 2017 matchups], but I always saw him on tape," Fangio added. "And I think that scheme fits in – the zone-blocking scheme, where he can cut it back or power through the point of attack. With the blocking that he's been getting and the balance in their offense, you're seeing why he's such a great player."
Fangio also is quite familiar with Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, whom he believes has benefited by the system put in place by Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski and Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Advisor Gary Kubiak.
"He has been [on fire]. I think he's benefited tremendously by the schematic change in the offense," Fangio said of Cousins. "He's excelled with it and played at a high level there, especially the last month-and-a-half."
Kubiak will be another familiar face to many of the Broncos players, having spent 2015-16 as Denver's head coach and from 2017-18 served as the team's Senior Personnel Advisor. Prior to that, he was a backup quarterback from 1983-91 and worked as an assistant coach (1995-2005 as offensive coordinator).
Broncos cornerback Chris Harris, Jr., definitely recognizes the offense he sees on tape in prepping for Minnesota – but just because he's seen it before doesn't mean it won't be a challenge.
"You know the way 'Kubs' is – he runs that zone offense and tries to make everything look the same. That's what they've done a good job at," Harris told Denver-area reporters this week. "Kirk has done a good job of playing out the fakes, having great plays that look similar to draw up the screens and get them open, and I think they're one of the better screen teams that we play."
Harris said that Cousins has been "playing really smart football" as of late.
"He's running [that system] to perfection right now," Harris explained. "They're keeping him under center on first and second down, and from there they can do a lot of play-action, a lot of boots, a lot of screens with that."
He added: "And I think it's throwing people off-guard the way they're running the football."
Here are other highlights from the Broncos talking about the Vikings this week:
Fangio on Vikings LB Eric Kendricks:
"He was a guy that I liked the year he came out in the draft, and I'm not surprised by his play. He excels in the area that you need to excel in most as an inside linebacker, and that's instinct. He's got tremendous instincts, he's played in the same defense now since he's been in the NFL, so that just helps him even more so. The guy just makes a lot of plays. He's one of those guys who's the same way he was in college when you watched him. He just makes a lot of plays. He's a great player."
Harris on Vikings WR duo Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs:
"They're two great receivers. Thielen, he can run all the routes, he's faster than people give him [credit for], and he's got great hands. I like Thielen's game. He's definitely improved over the years. We'll see how Coach matches me up, see how he's going to do it, and if Thielen doesn't go, I see myself probably following Diggs. But I think I've had a Pro Bowl receiver every week, so it's just another week."
S Justin Simmons on what stands out about Cook:
"His ability to break tackles. Everyone knows his speed is top-class, and his vision is really good, as well, but once he gets to … that impact point, he's able to break those tackles. It's easier when you get to the secondary, but d-linemen, [he's] breaking arm tackles, linebackers, he's just breaking up the tackles from them when they're not wrapping up and finishing. It's going to be another tough test in order to contain what he does, because he does a lot of things really well for them."
WR Courtland Sutton on Minnesota's defense:
"They have a really good defense. The way they play is intense, and we're trying to make sure that we go out there and put ourselves in a position to be successful."
RB Phillip Lindsay on the Vikings defense:
"They're tough. … I mean, I'm not gonna say they're the greatest on earth. They're beatable, just like everybody else. … For me, I don't fear nobody."
Lindsay on respect for Cook:
"Dalvin's been doing a hell of a job, honestly, and he deserves it. That man's been through a lot. He had an injury his first two years. You guys finally get to someone who's healthy. And you can't knock that."
QB Brandon Allen on expectations for Vikings defense:
"Their defense is great. They're going to be a great challenge for us, for sure. They've got no weak spots on their defense, so for us to go out there and score, we're going to have to execute and play a pretty clean game in a tough environment."