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Seahawks/Vikings Preview (NFC Wild-Card Playoff)

9 Jan
vikings wild card preview 2015

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: (6) Seattle Seahawks at (3) Minnesota Vikings

Site: TCF Bank Stadium (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

Kickoff: 10:05am

On December 6th the Seahawks rolled into Minneapolis and delivered a monumental beat down to the Minnesota Vikings 38-7. One month later the Seahawks will look to do the same thing in order to keep their season alive. The Seahawks travel to TCF Bank Stadium once again on Sunday as they take on the NFC North champion Vikings in an NFC Wild-Card playoff game. The Seahawks enter as the number 6 seed and a win will punch their ticket to Charlotte for the NFC Divisional playoffs. The Vikings are the number 3 seed and a win will send them to Arizona to play the Cardinals next week. Of course the loser of this game sees their 2015 season come to an end. The theme in this game is “different.” There will be multiple things that will be different this week from the last time these two teams faced off 5 weeks ago. For the Vikings, several things will have to be different in order to advance to next weekend. Here are a small handful of differences I will have my attention on in this game.

Last time around Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson completed 78 percent of his passes for 274 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Seahawks also added 101 yards and a touchdown on the ground by running back Thomas Rawls. Rawls is on injured reserve and this week the Seahawks will start someone who was not even on the roster back in week 13, running back Christine Michael. Michael will be thrust into the starting role after the unexpected breaking news Friday night that Marshawn Lynch, who practiced all week and seemed ready to go, ruled himself unable to play. Michael has an opportunity to completely change critic’s opinions of him as an NFL player with a strong performance in Minnesota. Establishing the run on first down will remain important but do not be surprised to see more passes called on first down than runs. If Michael can get going early and be able to put up at least 80 yards on the ground it will take pressure off of the passing game and the Seahawks offense will be able to control time of possession, putting Minnesota at a disadvantage.

In my preview of our regular season matchup against the Vikings I talked about how important it was for the Seahawks defense to corral Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson. This is the one and only constant I will be focused on this week. It is the same story as last time: shut him down, win the game. Peterson was held to his worse stat line of his season against the Seahawks, rushing 8 times for 18 yards. In the 4 games to end the season after playing Seattle Peterson averaged 21 carries for 76 yards and recorded 3 touchdowns. Linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright combined for 17 tackles against the Vikings in the regular season so look for Kris Richard to stuff the box to help defensive tackles Brandon Mebane, Ahtyba Rubin, and Jordan Hill out.

One of the biggest reasons this game will be different for the Minnesota Vikings is unlike in our last meeting, Minnesota’s defense is close to full strength. Multiple players who were inactive or hurt during our matchup five weeks ago will be on the field this Sunday. This includes safety Harrison Smith and linebacker Anthony Barr. I am putting my X-Factor spotlight on another one of those players who may be back on the field on Sunday. My X-Factor player to Watch for the Vikings this week is defensive tackle Linval Joseph. Joseph’s absence was a contributing factor in the Seahawks being able to accrue 173 total rushing yards on December 6th. He is one of the best interior defensive linemen in the game and I believe he is extremely underrated, much like Brandon Mebane is for Seattle. Right before he got hurt he was putting up big numbers in the tackles category, averaging just over 6 tackles per game in his last 5 games. He has also recorded 7 tackles for loss this season. Against an average Seahawks offensive line Joseph could be poised for a huge game statistically. If the Seahawks run Christine Michael up the middle look for Joseph to make a big impact.

Something else that must be talked about is the weather conditions for Sunday’s game. In our last meeting in Minnesota the temperature was in the high 30’s; an abnormally warm temperature for that time of year. This week brings a completely different story as the Seahawks will be playing in the coldest game in franchise history. The temperature at kickoff is projected to be no higher than 3 degrees but I have seen reports from the national weather service over the past few days that claim the temperature at kickoff could be as low as -20 degrees plus wind chill. It will be painfully cold and the weather could absolutely play a factor in how the game plays out. I remember two seasons ago the San Francisco 49ers traveled to Green Bay to play the Packers in an NFC wild-card game. The 49ers were no doubt the better team but because the temperature was so low it allowed the Packers to play San Francisco tough almost to the point of them upsetting them. It will be harder to throw, harder to tackle, harder to kick, and harder to score. These circumstances could give the Vikings an advantage that is difficult to overlook.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear white jerseys and college navy pants this week. The Vikings will wear purple jerseys and white pants… Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth have the call for a rare NBC matinee broadcast this week… Walt Coleman is our referee in this game… I find it very interesting the NFL decided to have both NFC wild-card games on Sunday rather than one on Saturday and the other on Sunday. It makes sense going from week 17 into the postseason but one team playing this weekend will lose a day of preparation for next week because they will have to play Arizona the following Saturday… Many people approached me over the past week and asked me if I was going to Minneapolis for the game. I would love to be there even with the weather being what it is, but unfortunately I will not be there. Hopefully I get to make at least one more road trip before the end of our season… I am not a fan of the morning start in the playoffs. That’s the price we pay for going on the road I guess.

Prediction: It will not be a blowout and the weather will be a factor, but I still believe the Seahawks will punch their ticket to the Divisional round. Russell Wilson will throw touchdowns to Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett. A late touchdown run by Adrian Peterson will keep things close but the Seahawks will be able to convert third down opportunity with under two minutes left to seal the win. The Seahawks will come home and get ready for an NFC Divisional playoff against the Carolina Panthers.

Seahawks 27, Vikings 17

Seahawks/Vikings Preview

5 Dec
vikings preview 2015

Photo Credit: Vikings.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Minnesota Vikings

Site: TCF Bank Stadium (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

Kickoff: 10:00am

Raise your hand if you had this game as the Seahawks most important game of the season when the schedule came out. After three consecutive games at home the Seahawks hit the road for two straight games. Up first is a huge conference matchup against the Minnesota Vikings. The Seahawks are 6-5 and are coming off a huge win over Pittsburgh a week ago. The Vikings were a team that many experts said to keep an eye on at the start of the season and they are proving the experts right. Minnesota holds an impressive 8-3 record and are currently the leaders of the NFC North. Seattle leads the all-time series 8-5. In their last meeting the Seahawks crushed the Vikings 41-20 in Seattle and the Seahawks eventually went on to win the super bowl. This could very well be a preview of a potential playoff matchup next month. Here is what I will be watching for.

The Minnesota defense allows an average of only 17.6 points per game, second best in the league. It is imperative for the Seahawks offense to be able to stay on the field and drive deep into Vikings territory. Thomas Rawls will face his biggest challenge of the season and I will be keeping close tabs on his yardage coming on first down opportunities. If he can gain at least 4 yards on first down it will put the offense in a good position to gain first downs and keep drives alive. In the passing game I will be focused on the blocking by left tackle Russell Okung and left guard Justin Britt. The right side of the Vikings front seven consists of lineman Everson Griffen as well as linebackers Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr. These three players have combined for 14 of Minnesota’s 25 sacks this season (56 percent). I expect Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson to take care of the ball just like how he did a week ago against Pittsburgh but he must be more aware of his blindside in this game. If Okung and Britt struggle to block it would not be surprising to see Wilson get hit and fumble the ball multiple times. Quick passes to Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, and Luke Willson may be the best way to attack the Vikings through the air this week.

If there was one game this season where I wish we still had Red Bryant it would be for this game. Priority number one for the Seahawks defense this week will be to stop Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. It will be up to Brandon Mebane and Ahtyba Rubin to lock down the middle of the line of scrimmage. Given the solid play of Minnesota’s offensive line penetrating the line will be difficult. Good fundamental tackling will go a long way to limiting Peterson’s production. One guy on defense that may see more playing time than usual is Jordan Hill. In an attempt to limit Peterson’s presence it may not be surprising to see Hill, Mebane, and Rubin all play on the line at the same time.

The Minnesota Vikings have the top ranked rushing offense in the league. In contrast they also sport the league’s second worse pass offense. At age 30 Adrian Peterson is still as productive as ever and the Vikings offense is only as effective as he is. Peterson leads the league in rushing yards with 1,164 and has rushed for over 100 yards six times this season. The Vikings are 6-0 in those games. My worry is that the Vikings will use other ways to move the ball on the ground in an attempt to avoid throwing towards the Legion of Boom. My X-Factor Player to Watch for the Vikings this week is one of the better young quarterbacks in the league and the man that makes the entire Minnesota offense work, Teddy Bridgewater. Although Bridgewater has not thrown for many touchdowns, he is a very conservative passer who tries to move the ball in small chunks to wear out the opposing defense. Bridgewater has had a completion percentage of over 65 percent in six games. In those games he has thrown only two interceptions. The main reason why he is my X-Factor this week is the threat of him keeping the ball and running. Although he has not nearly put up the type of rushing stats as Russell Wilson or Colin Kaepernick of seasons past, Bridgewater is one of the faster quarterbacks in the league and he will scramble and take off if he feels the pressure and does not have any open receivers. Peterson may be the number one priority of the Seattle defense but Bridgewater also contributes to that top ranked rushing attack. Plain and simple, shut Peterson and Bridgewater down on the ground, win the game.

Something that is not garnering the attention that I believe it should is one fairly significant advantage the Seahawks have in this game. Gone are the days of playing the Vikings at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, which was one of the better home field advantages in the NFL. It would be a tougher challenge for the Seahawks if we were playing at the Metrodome. Instead the Vikings are playing the second of two seasons at TCF Bank Stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota while their brand new stadium is under construction. The stadium seats just over 51,000 which is the smallest capacity of any current NFL stadium and crowd noise will hardly be a factor.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear white jerseys and wolf grey pants. Seattle is 0-4 all-time in this combination. The Vikings will wear purple jerseys and white pants… Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch will have the play-by-play and commentary respectively on FOX. Pam Oliver will report from the sidelines… Terry McAulay will be this week’s referee… I briefly considered hitting the road for this game but ultimately decided to go to Dallas instead. The reason behind that decision was the potential weather in Minneapolis. Being a December game I thought there was a realistic possibility of it being below freezing and snowing. Hindsight is 20/20 and in that vein it looks like it will be a nice day for football. The high temperature on Sunday will be in the low 40’s and it will be sunny. That is exactly the kind of weather we have experienced in Seattle the past two weeks… After this week the combined record of the Seahawks next three opponents is 10-23. Translation: If the Seahawks beat the Vikings, you will be extremely hard-pressed to make the argument that Seattle will miss out on the playoffs.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: The Seahawks currently hold the #6 seed in the NFC playoffs and with a win we are locked into this spot for at least another week; we cannot move up but a loss may knock us out of the current playoff picture. Seattle is three games behind the Arizona Cardinals for first place in the NFC West. Here are games to keep track of that may have NFC playoff implications this week. Teams to note are bolded.

Arizona (9-2) at St. Louis (4-7)

Atlanta (6-5) at Tampa Bay (5-6)

Prediction: The Seahawks are 12-2 in games played in December with Russell Wilson at quarterback. Each of the prior three seasons our December success has carried us to the playoffs. With the win last week we will be riding some serious momentum into this game. Thomas Rawls will run for over 125 yards and score two touchdowns. Wilson will also throw a touchdown to Luke Willson. The game will come down to Minnesota’s final drive. After a punt by Jon Ryan pins the Vikings at their own 2-yard line, Bridgewater will have to drive 98 yards for a game-tying touchdown. On the first play of the drive Minnesota will be penalized for holding in the endzone, giving the Seahawks a safety and in-turn, clinching the game for Seattle. We will improve to 7-5 and be in the driver’s seat for an NFC wild-card berth.

Seahawks 26, Vikings 17

Vikings/Seahawks Preview

16 Nov
Image

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

After the Seahawks 33-10 win last week over the Atlanta Falcons, they come home this week for one more game before their late bye week. This week also begins a stretch where the Seahawks play 4 out of their last 6 regular season games at home. They start this stretch against the Minnesota Vikings. The Seahawks continue their best start in franchise history as they enter this week’s game with a 9-1 record. Minnesota has not had similar fortune. After going 10-6 and making the playoffs last season, the Vikings enter this game at 2-7 and are in last place in the NFC North. Having said this, the Vikings are coming off of a win last Thursday night as they defeated the Washington Redskins 34-27. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with Minnesota 7-5. Their last meeting came last November. After allowing 80 rushing yards and a touchdown to running back Adrian Peterson on Minnesota’s first offensive drive of the game, the Seahawks buckled down and beat the Vikings 30-20. Two weeks ago many including myself thought the Seahawks would easily beat Tampa Bay at home but barely squeaked by with a win. The Seahawks cannot overlook the Vikings like they overlooked the Buccaneers. Here is what needs to happen for the Seahawks to get to 10-1 on the season.

As always I start with the Seahawks offense and the biggest key for Russell Wilson and the rest of the offense this week is to carry their offensive momentum from last week’s game into this week’s game. On paper that should not be a problem. The Seahawks will have Russell Okung, Max Unger, and Breno Giacomini back this week starting on the offensive line. This is great news for Marshawn Lynch. If you think he was productive the last few weeks with a makeshift offensive line, just imagine how productive he will be going forward with our starting line back. This is also great news for Wilson, as the pass protection should improve greatly, giving him more time in the pocket to make throws down the field. It also helps that the Vikings pass defense ranks 5th worst in the NFL, allowing an average of 286 passing yards per game. I think it may take a little bit of time for Wilson to get re-acclimated to his starting offensive line, thus you may see him panic and make quick throws to his receivers early on. If pass protection is strong early, Wilson will settle down fast and be able to confidently stand in the pocket to make throws as the game goes on.

At the other skill positions the primary storyline this week is the return and Seahawks debut of wide receiver Percy Harvin. According to the NFL Network, Harvin is expected to start this week. As exciting as it is to have Harvin back in the lineup, he has not played in a live game for a full calendar year and he must get back to game speed and it may take some time to do so. Harvin will play but I do not expect to see the kind of jaw dropping performance this week that Seahawks fans knew they were getting when we acquired him. I do not expect Harvin to return kicks and he may be on a limited snap count this week. In my opinion I expect to see Harvin on the field between 12 to 15 plays and I would be satisfied to see him catch between 40-55 yards worth of passes. Adding Harvin could also benefit the passing game by using him as a decoy. Golden Tate has put together a solid string of performances over the past couple of weeks and Jermaine Kearse has proven to be Russell Wilson’s go-to guy deep down the field. The different ways Pete Carroll and Darrell Bevell use our wide receivers create different options for how to play Harvin both on the outside and in the slot. In short, Percy Harvin will make an impact in our offense this week, the question is what kind and how big of an impact.

The number one key for the Seattle defense this week is to prove that last week’s 64 rushing yards allowed to the Atlanta Falcons was not a “fluke” performance. The run defense will face their biggest challenge this week and it will be essential to shut Adrian Peterson down and force Minnesota to throw. Mistakes could be made by the Vikings if the Seahawks can effectively take away the running game, and the Legion of Boom should be on high alert for passes dangerously thrown into coverage. Speaking of the Legion of Boom, I am curious to see Walter Thurmond start in place of the injured Brandon Browner. If there is one position group that can afford to lose a starter it is cornerback. Thurmond started for Browner in the Seahawks first two games of the season and had 5 tackles and 2 passes defensed in that span. With Thurmond starting and Jeremy Lane nursing an injured hip, Byron Maxwell might be forced to play nickel corner this week. If this is the case, expect the Vikings to have three or more receivers on the field more often to try to take advantage of our defensive formations.

There is no secret to how the Minnesota Vikings offense works; give the ball to Adrian Peterson and let him run wild. With the Vikings quarterback situation up in arms (Christian Ponder is expected to start Sunday with Josh Freeman and Matt Cassel as backups) the only way I think the Vikings can win this game is for Peterson to carry the team on his back, putting up a couple hundred rushing yards and scoring multiple touchdowns.  Peterson deserves the bulk of the offensive workload no question about it but there is another guy on Minnesota’s offense that deserves to be my X-Factor player to watch this week. After the Vikings traded Percy Harvin to the Seahawks over the offseason, they needed to plug that hole and try to replace Harvin’s production. Minnesota used one of their three first round picks to try to do so. My X-Factor player to watch for the Vikings this week is rookie wide receiver/kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson. Patterson is a height/weight/speed player who caught my eye leading up to this year’s draft. Although raw, I thought Patterson would be a good fit in Seattle and although he does not have the prettiest of stats so far this season, the potential is there to confirm my personal pre-draft thoughts. Patterson’s most productive game as a receiver came week 3 against Cleveland when he caught 2 passes for 49 yards. Patterson has not caught more than 3 passes in a game so far this season but the Vikings have done a better job getting him involved in the offense, which was evident last week against Washington when he caught his first career touchdown pass. It will be necessary for the Seahawks to play a solid game on special teams because Patterson is not afraid to return kickoffs deep out of the endzone. Patterson has returned 2 kickoffs for touchdowns this season. Peterson and Patterson will be responsible for the majority of Minnesota’s offensive production this week. Shutting both of them down will go a long way in preserving a Seahawks victory.

Random Thoughts: A preview of the Vikings defense does not warrant its own paragraph so I will place them here in random thoughts this week. The Vikings defense has struggled as a unit throughout the course of this season but keep an eye on veteran defensive end Jared Allen and linebacker Chad Greenway. Both have put up good numbers to lead this subpar group this season… Blue jerseys and blue pants once again for the Seahawks this week. The Vikings will most likely wear purple pants with their white jerseys… Chris Myers and Tim Ryan have the call for FOX this week… Jerome Boger is the referee this week. Don’t be surprised if Boger frustrates you at some point during the game. He does not do nearly as good of a job explaining his calls than other referees. In my opinion he is one of the worst referees in the NFL overall… For those attending this game remember that it is a 1:25 kickoff this week. I like having that extra 20 minutes to get to my seats… Gates will open 3 hours before the rest of our home games this season. Hopefully that chops down waiting time when I go in about an hour before kickoff… This week’s game theme is military appreciation. A full-sized American flag will be unraveled during the national anthem along with a Purple Heart ceremony during halftime. Vietnam veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Bruce Crandall will raise the 12th Man Flag this week. It is tradition that a notable local veteran raises the flag on military appreciation day… I will definitely be scoreboard watching throughout the game. Although I don’t want to see either team win, I would rather see New Orleans win than San Francisco. We’ve got to take care of the division first before we can start to think about home field advantage in the playoffs… I am taking a buddy of mine who is a Chicago Bears fan primarily and a Seahawks fan on the side. We’ll have to make sure the Ravens/Bears game is on at the bar during the morning slate of games for his enjoyment. As always let’s take care of the Vikings early and stay healthy!

Prediction: The Seahawks will take care of business this week and although we will not dominate like we did against the Falcons, they won’t have us biting our nails in nervously like they had us doing against Tampa Bay two weeks ago. Russell Wilson will throw for 300+ yards and Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin will each have a touchdown catch. Marshawn Lynch will run for at least 85 yards and a touchdown as well. Adrian Peterson will put up two touchdowns on the ground but it won’t nearly be enough as Seattle will win and head into the bye week 10-1.

Seahawks 33, Vikings 17

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: Going into this week the Seahawks have a 2 ½ game lead on the San Francisco 49ers for first place in the NFC West. They also lead the New Orleans Saints by 1 ½ games for the number one seed in the NFC Playoffs. Here are this week’s games that could impact the NFC Playoff race overall. Teams to note are bolded.

Minnesota (2-7) at Seattle (9-1)

San Francisco (6-3) at New Orleans (7-2)

Detroit (6-3) at Pittsburgh (3-6)

Baltimore (4-5) at Chicago (5-4)

Washington (3-6) at Philadelphia (5-5)

New England (7-2) at Carolina (6-3)

Be sure to check back late Sunday night/early Monday morning for my review of our game against the Minnesota Vikings. Enjoy the game everyone. Go Seahawks!