The 2015 Minnesota Vikings will forever be known as the team that won this season’s NFC North division title. Will that be all they will be remembered for or will they continue to prove people wrong in the postseason?
Their chance to make some noise in the playoffs begins when the Seattle Seahawks come to town this Sunday. The Vikings will be trying to beat a team that flat out embarrassed them earlier this season.
When these two teams faced off during the regular season, Minnesota’s offense failed to put a single point on the scoreboard. Will it be a different story for the Vikings offense this weekend or will Seattle’s defense turn in another dominating performance?
For Minnesota to have a chance at pulling off the upset on Sunday, they need a solid performance from their offensive linemen. Performing better than they did when the Vikings and Seahawks met earlier this season should not be too tough because it could not get much worse.
When these two teams faced off back in Week 13, Minnesota’s offensive line was manhandled by the Seattle defense. According to Pro Football Focus, the Vikings linemen gave up three sacks, five hits and nine hurries.
Minnesota’s line may have an even tougher task this weekend now that a knee injury knocked tight end Rhett Ellison out of the playoffs. As the season progressed, Ellison’s blocking ability in both the run and pass proved to be beneficial to a struggling offensive line.
Speaking of not playing any worse, Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will be looking to improve upon his 99 passing yards he threw in last week’s win over the Green Bay Packers. Additionally, sources have all but confirmed that all of Bridgewater’s passes will be thrown with his right arm and only his right arm this Sunday.
If not for his total number of passing yards against the Packers, Bridgewater’s lowest passing yardage of the season would have come from his performance against Seattle. The Seahawks defense gave Bridgewater fits all day, intercepting him once and holding him to 188 yards passing.
One thing going for him is that his play seems to improve when he faces a team for the second time in a season. In those second matchups, Bridgewater averaged 234 yards passing compared to the 196 passing yards he averaged during the first time he met that opponent.
With Seattle having such a dangerous pass rush, Minnesota could go back to calling quicker passes that they found success with in the three weeks previous to the game in Green Bay. Otherwise, Bridgewater could be looking forward to another long afternoon with plenty of non-friendly interactions from the Seahawks pass rushers.
For most teams, having the 2015 NFL rushing leader in its backfield would be assumed as huge advantage heading into a playoff game. However, with the way in which Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has been playing in the recent weeks, that assumption cannot be made.
Peterson has only averaged 64 rushing yards per game in the last five weeks and it will not get any easier when he goes up against Seattle’s top ranked rush defense this weekend. The Seahawks defense did not allow any opposing running backs to rush for 100 yards or more during the regular season and have given up an average of only 57 total rushing yards to opposing teams in the last seven weeks.
With the game temperature expected to be around zero degrees on Sunday, both teams could place more of an emphasis on running the football. If that becomes the case, the advantage has to go to Minnesota right?
After struggling for a bit of the season, the Vikings wide receivers seem to be finding more ways to make plays. Whether it be on a shallow crossing route or a wide receiver reverse, Minnesota seems to be placing more of an emphasis on getting the ball in their receivers’ hands.
The Vikings receivers struggled in Minnesota’s first game against the Seahawks and Seattle’s pass defense might have become even better since that first meeting. The Vikings will have to find creative ways to get the football to their receivers in order to exploit a Seahawks pass defense that has only allowed an average of 148 yards in the air in their last three games.
The frigid weather could potentially impact how many passes Minnesota’s receivers see thrown in their direction this weekend. So all that Bridgewater and the Vikings ask is that their receivers catch the ball when it hits their hands (cough, cough Mike Wallace).
Believe it or not, Minnesota does have a chance in this game. Even though they are underdogs heading into this Sunday, this is a totally different team that Seattle will be facing than when these two teams first met this season.
The Vikings will have at least two of their three best players on defense in the starting lineup and Minnesota has quietly won four of their last six games. Will their additions on defense and the emergence of offensive players like running back Jerick McKinnon be enough to defeat the NFC’s champion of the last two seasons?
Pass the Kool-aid because the Vikings are on their way to upset city.
Prediction: Vikings 13, Seahawks 9