Matchup: Minnesota Vikings vs. Seattle Seahawks
Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)
The Seahawks return home on Sunday to start the second half of the season against the Minnesota Vikings. The Seahawks enter this game at 4-4 and are looking to gain a half a game on the division leading San Francisco 49ers in the division standings. The Vikings are a surprising 5-3 and are looking to get back on track after losing last Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Seahawks lead the all-time series against the Vikings 6-5 but have lost two in a row to Minnesota. Their last matchup was a 35-9 Vikings blowout over the Seahawks at the Metrodome in November of 2009. Here now are my thoughts on this week’s game and the keys to a Seahawks victory.
It has been three weeks since the Seahawks have played at home. The defense was able to shut down the New England Patriots and escape with a victory. This week the Seahawks defense gets the Vikings offense including a quarterback who has never played in Seattle. I have labeled Christian Ponder as fresh meat this week because not only has he never played in Seattle, this is only his second season in the league and I do not believe he has faced a defense as talented in an environment like ours all season. The Seahawks pass rush is a big key on defense this week. Pressuring Ponder into mistakes will be huge this week. Although interceptions would be fantastic, I will be keeping my eyes on the decisions Ponder makes if the pressure is on. Most notably, I will be looking for how long he takes to throw, and if he will try to force throws or if he will throw the ball away. At home, I have full confidence in our defense to stop the Vikings on third downs. By putting Ponder in second and third down and long will be to our advantage. I have full confidence the defense has looked over film and made proper adjustments to be more effective on third down. This week, my player to watch on defense is linebacker Bobby Wagner. Wagner has been mentioned as an early candidate for defensive rookie of the year. Wagner is doing a great job calling the plays on defense. I predict that Wagner will record his second sack of the season on Sunday.
Last week in Detroit, Marshawn Lynch broke off a 77-yard touchdown run which was his longest run of the season thus far. The Minnesota Vikings do not have a very good run defense. I would not be surprised if Lynch has another 100+ yard rush game which includes at least one touchdown. Lynch has not scored a touchdown at home since week 2 and my offensive prediction this week is that Lynch will score this week. Getting the running game going will take time off the clock and put pressure on the Vikings to make a stop. Lynch is the biggest factor on offense this week and a strong performance from him will probably translate into a positive outcome for the Seahawks this week.
Russell Wilson is back home this week, where he is way more comfortable. After a strong performance on the road last week, I would expect to see momentum rolling over into this game. Just as a reminder, Russell has thrown 6 touchdowns and no interceptions in games at home this season. Russell has the potential to throw for the most single game yardage so far this season. If the running game is working effectively this may not be the case, but if Wilson has to throw often, I think he could put up some big numbers and move the chains in huge chunks. I do however think the Seahawks offensive line will have trouble at times blocking and protecting Wilson. The Seahawks have been able to stay healthy along the offensive line and the continuity is building in the middle between James Carpenter, Max Unger, and Paul McQuistan. This group is still a bit raw and is subject to giving up some sacks and quarterback pressures this week.
The Minnesota Vikings are 5-3 and a large part has to do with their under-the-radar defense. One player who is definitely not flying under-the-radar however is all-pro defensive end Jared Allen who has recorded 7 of Minnesota’s 23 sacks this season. That total is tied for 3rd in the league. Allen is the biggest name on Minnesota’s defense but I have two other players to look for. Cornerback Antoine Winfield has 60 tackles so far this season and has picked off two passes. With the uncertainty at wide receiver this week for the Seahawks, I expect Winfield to line up against Sidney Rice for the majority of the game. Also, rookie safety Harrison Smith is another player to keep an eye on for Minnesota. Smith has been compared to Earl Thomas because of his incredible range and ball hawking ability. If Russell Wilson floats some passes deep, Smith will most likely be in the neighborhood to try to make a play.
On offense you always have to be worried about leading rusher Adrian Peterson, but if the Seahawks defense plays the way I expect them to, Christian Ponder will have to throw the ball a lot. Percy Harvin has 667 receiving yards, three receiving touchdowns, and one touchdown on a kickoff return. Harvin is one of the best duel-threats in the league and his quickness may really be a problem in this game. Harvin will go up against Brandon Browner this week and if we give up big chunks of yards to Harvin the Seahawks will definitely be at a disadvantage. Harvin will be the reason if special teams play a significant role in this game. If Harvin has a big game whether it be receiving or returning kicks, the Seahawks may be in trouble.
One final note about the Seahawks wide receiver depth, it looks like Doug Baldwin will be ready to play this week after a miraculous recovery to his ankle. If Baldwin can go, the Seahawks will have 5 healthy wide receivers. Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, Charly Martin, and Jermaine Kearse are the other 4. I do not expect Kearse to see much playing time and if Baldwin can go, expect Martin’s plays to decrease as well.
Random Thoughts: What a treat. The halftime show this week is a joint performance by the Newport and Mercer Island high school marching bands. I was a part of the Newport HS band from 2004-2008 and I have heard the entire band and staff have turned over since I graduated. Nevertheless it will be kind of funny and cool to watch where I was only 5 years ago… The pregame giveaway is a blue Seahawks poncho. Kind of useless since I’ll be in the upper deck where the elements are a non-factor… The weather is supposed to be in the low 60’s on Sunday. Looks like I’ll be sporting the visor for one more home game… Chris Myers and Tim Ryan have the call for FOX for the second straight week. After last week’s play-by-play/commentary performance, I am very thankful I’ll actually be at the game this week… Looks like I’ll be tailgating in a parking lot in Pioneer Square again before this game. I’m excited… The Seahawks will most likely wear blue jerseys and blue pants again this week. I love surprises and I’m waiting to be surprised. I kind of want the Seahawks to switch up their uniform combinations at home… I have an assignment due at 5pm Sunday night. I’ll put good money on me getting it done before Sunday rolls around.
Prediction: I think it is crucial for the Seahawks to win these next two home games before the bye. The fact that we are at home and Christian Ponder has never played at CenturyLink Field before gives us a huge advantage. I think we will able to contain Adrian Peterson for the most part and Russell Wilson will have his best performance of the season.
Seahawks 24, Vikings 13
Look for my review of the Vikings game sometime Monday afternoon or evening. Enjoy the game everybody. Go Hawks!