Do the Vikings have the Giants' number?

The Vikings have a four-game winning streak over the Giants, but this time New York has something to play for. The Vikings won't be seeing the B-team of the G-Men this time around. Players talk about how they've built up a streak like that against one of the NFC's better teams.

The Vikings and the New York Giants have spent the last decade developing a non-divisional rivalry. While the Vikings can go years and play a team just once – for example, the Vikings have played St. Louis and Seattle just once each since 2006 – the Giants and Vikings have an incredible streak of playing each other. Since 2000, the Vikings have played the Giants a whopping nine times – the most of any team outside the NFC North in that span.

Sunday will be the 11th time in 12 years the teams meet (the only year since 1999 that they didn't play the G-Men was in 2006) and it will be the third straight game at the Metrodome. Such familiarity has made them a rival by default. Linebacker Ben Leber has been with the Vikings since 2006. In each of the last four seasons, he has gone up against Eli Manning and the Giants offense and said that, at times, you run into streaks like that against specific teams – just rarely to the extent that the Vikings and Giants meet.

"It's seems like we have (played them a lot)," Leber said. "Fortunately for us, we've been playing at home most of the time. It's kind of like playing New Orleans. It seems like we're always going down there. The situation is good for us playing at home. We match up well against them; hopefully we can come out on top."

The Vikings had clearly had the upper hand in the rivalry, something Giants players have been pointing out this week, especially in a 44-7 rout last year in the final regular-season game of the season. Lito Sheppard, who played the Giants twice a year in his time with Philadelphia, said that the Vikings have consistently played well against the Giants, which is no small feat. Few teams have a four-game winning streak over the Giants, especially during their Super Bowl winning season of 2007. He said he's not a firm believer that one team has another team's "number," but that the Vikings' recent success against the Giants is impressive.

"That seems to be the history with this team and the Giants," Sheppard said. "But you can never judge by the last game. That's history and the Giants are a different team this year. They're a lot healthier than they were last year, but any advantage we can get – if we're in their heads – is an advantage. The Giants are a very good team and I can understand why they still remember the games from the last couple of weeks. When a team blows you out, you don't forget that and it motivates you to come back harder the next time. When you win, you're supposed to forget about it right away and move on to the next opponent. Dwelling too much on the things you did right before can set you up for failure. But, when you lose badly, that leaves a bad taste in your mouth and you don't forget that nearly as quickly."

Cornerback Asher Allen has only played New York once, but it was an impressive 44-7 blowout last year at the Metrodome. He said that the Giants team he has been watching on film doesn't look anything like the team the Vikings mauled and manhandled a little less than a year ago.

"I can just speak for last year, because that was the only game I played," Allen said. "Last year, we were really on a roll and sometimes it's just that team's day. Watching them on film, they're really, really good and they're well-balanced on offense. They look a lot like the same team from last year, but obviously they're doing a lot better than they were when we played a year ago. I think we matched up well against them last year and the bounces all went our way. We have a lot of confidence and want to show everybody what kind of team we have, despite our record."

Some of the contributing factors to the Vikings' wins have been both timing and bizarre plays. In the games in 2005 and 2007 at New York, Eli Manning allowed Pick-Six defensive touchdowns in both and turned the ball over with eight interceptions in the two home losses. The 2005 Vikings win was one of the strangest in team history, as they scored 24 points without the benefit of an offensive touchdown – scoring three touchdowns – on an interception return for a score, a punt return touchdown and a kickoff return for a TD.

When the teams met in 2008, the Giants had already clinched home-field advantage in the playoffs. As such, they benched most of their starters in the second half, allowing the Vikings to dominate the final 30 minutes and come away with a 20-19 win that gave the Vikings a division title. Last year, the Giants had been eliminated from the postseason and opted to rest a handful of injured starters. The result, safety Husain Abdullah recalls, was that the Giants were a team looking to not get veteran players hurt and give young players a chance to get significant playing time in a game "that counts."

The Vikings did something similar in 2006 – Brad Childress' first season as head coach. Many of the starters played a limited amount, rookie Tarvaris Jackson got the start at quarterback and the St. Louis Rams pounded the Vikings 41-21. Abdullah said he saw many of the same sorts of things being done with the Giants. With the exception of Manning, most of the starters that played were out by the third quarter.

"I don't know how hard they were playing last year," Abdullah said. "They had a lot of guys that were injured and they were already out of it, so they gave a lot of their regular guys the day off because for some of them there was no reason to risk further injury because they were done. That probably played into how that game went as much as anything. When you can dial up pressure on the quarterback, it doesn't matter who you are, you're going to feel it. We've been able to do that against them and good things happen when you can get the quarterback out of the pocket and forcing passes on the move."

Linebacker Chad Greenway said the Vikings have consistently been able to create pressure, especially early in games, and getting the crowds at the Metrodome whipped into a lather has factored into the Vikings taking advantage of opportunities on the field.

"We've had the last couple of games at home against them, so that has factored into it somewhat," Greenway said. "There are games that go that way sometimes. If you get behind by a couple of touchdowns, you change what you're doing. You become one-dimensional and that has always played to our strength. I don't know if it's that they don't match up well against us, it's just that the game situations have set them up to go against the strength of our defense and what we do best."

Do the Vikings have the Giants proverbial "number?" The last couple of times they have met, for one reason or another, the Giants haven't put their best foot forward by design. This time around, with New York tied with Philadelphia for first place at 8-4 in the NFC East, every game in the final four-game push will be critical. If the Vikings do have the Giants' number, we'll find out Sunday. This time, we won't be seeing the Giants' B-team.

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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