Tomorrow night’s matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings almost looks like a postseason preview like many thought, but not in the precise way that most would have predicted. You see the playoffs started today, Seattle would have to go all the way to Minnesota for a wild card matchup. And that probably would not go so well considering how well the NFC North-leading Vikings have played this year, being perched right at the top at 8-3.
One of the most important elements to this game will be which team will control the game on the ground. That’s a tough prediction to makde since the Vikings and Seahawks are first and second in the league in rushing yards per contest. But many think that Seattle’s run defense is better and that that will give them the edge since they are fifth in the league against the run, whereas the Vikings are a mere 20th.
For the Vikings, this game, like most of their down the stretch, is a must-win situation. With the Green Bay Packers hail mary winning play that got them an undeserved victory two nights ago, a loss on Sunday would put the Vikings back into second place in the NFC North. They definitely will not want that since their upcoming Thursday night game will be to Arizona to the play the dominating Cardinals, later this week.
As with many games this season, the Vikings go into this game without a major part of their defense in tact, that being minus nose tackle Linval Joseph. Joseph has been ruled out of this weekend’s game with an ankle injury, and Sharrif Floyd will be playing instead. This is bad news for the Vikings. Why? Because even without Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks’ rushing game has been stellar behind rookie sensation Thomas Rawls. Rawls has gone over 100 yards three times this season, including a 209-yard performance against the San Francisco 49ers a few weeks ago.
In the pass game, Russell Wilson at QB has caused some problems for the Seahawks, though probably that won’t be as such a big issue this week since he’s operating from the pocket better than ever before, and their offense finally is finding a groove. In their last two wins, he’s gone 45-of-59 for 605 yards, eight touchdowns and no interceptions.
With the return of Harrison Smith to the Minnesota defense, and Anthony Barr causing havoc left, right and centre, Minnesota should get some more relief since Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham won’t play. He wasn’t having a record year but he’s still a dangerous weapon. He’s out on a knee injury he suffered last week that will keep him out for an extended period of time. But that also means that the Vikings could have a key defender at less than 100 percent at every level of their structure.
For Minnesota, when they have the ball, all the attention will center on Adrian Peterson. The Seahawks have the #5 rush defense in the NFL when you look at yards allowed but then again, the Atlanta Falcons were #1 against the run before Peterson got a hold of them and blew them away. They’re at #10 now. Peterson has been on a streak the past few months, and he’ll be looking to continue that dominance on Sunday. Teddy Bridgewater will have to elevate his game than he has in recent weeks, and Stefon Diggs will probably see a lot of Richard Sherman on Sunday afternoon, so there should be some openings out there for both teams. Tight end Kyle Rudolph could be pivotal in this one, since the Seahawks have had issues defending the tight end position all year long.
When you look at them noth, neither team is prolific at passing the football, but they both have very good defenses. Given that, this will probably be a rock’em sock’em affair and could be decided by who has the last possesion in regulation. No one is going to light up the scoreboard tomorrow night, but the Vikings probably have the edge since they have more to lose, if they lose. The best way to exploit the Seahawks has been to come up with a few big-play strikes, and unless they do that, they could find themselves on the short end of a very physical game. So expect a hard battle from them to keep their one-game lead in the NFC North.
This game will be decided in the final five minutes. And it should favour the home crowd.
Our Pick: Vikings over Seahawks, 21-17