The Vikings face off against the Seahawks in Seattle on Monday Night football, and this is working its way up to be the Vikings biggest game of the season. The Vikings, currently the sixth seed in the playoff race, are just behind the Seahawks in the Wild Card battle and both teams would be in the postseason if the regular season ended today.
But neither team is ready to settle for their current position.
The 9-2 Seahawks trail the 10-1 San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West Division and are working for some potential home games in the playoffs. The 8-3 Vikings are tied with the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North and are technically behind by virtue of the tie-breaker (after losing in Lambeau in their first meeting), so this game is crucial to their hopes for the division and hosting at least one playoff game. If the Vikings win out (which includes a home game against the Packers on Dec. 23rd), they will the division and set themselves up better in the postseason than they are currently sitting.
And because they are behind the Seahawks, even moving from sixth to fifth seed in the NFC with a win on Monday night is huge. It could mean the difference between traveling to San Francisco, New Orleans or Green Bay in the first round if they lose or to Dallas or Philadelphia with a win. The game, to be contested with four more games following it, has immense playoff implications.
Therefore, we know the Vikings would really like to come out on top. But doing so is another matter completely. The Vikings are coming off a bye and should be rested, if not fairly healthy, but they meet a tough team on the road (in a particularly inhospitable venue) that has lost to only the New Orleans Saints (who clinched the NFC South on Thanksgiving night) and the 9-2 Baltimore Ravens (who are becoming the talk of the AFC). The challenge facing the Vikings on paper Monday night is growing by the day.
The leader of the Seahawks is quarterback Russell Wilson and he has been having an MVP-type season. Wilson, who is seventh in the NFL in passing yards, leads the league (in a tie with the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson) in touchdown passes thrown with 24 (against three interceptions). His overall quarterback rating is the second best in the league at 112.1. And his play all season, which is predicated on a strong and accurate arm and great escapability with his legs, has had him in the MVP conversation all season long.
Interestingly enough, however, Wilson trails only one player in the rating category and that happens to be Kirk Cousins, signal caller for the Vikings, who will be on other the side of the field Monday night. Cousins’ rating is 114.8, and he has thrown 21 touchdowns versus three picks, but his play engenders more disagreements about whether or not to re-sign him after next season than series MVP discussions. But that is another topic for another time—or at least another post.
Chris Carson leads a group of solid running backs for the Seahawks, including a healthy and resurging Rashaad Penny. Carson is the workhorse and ranked eighth in the league in rushing yards with four touchdowns. But with the additional scrambling yards of Wilson, the Seahawks come in as the sixth best rushing team (two spots behind the Vikings in fourth) with 136.9 yards per game. Their passing game, meanwhile, is ranked 11th, with 248.5 yards through the air per game. The bottom line is that they are a very balanced offense that can hurt you in more than one way—as their sixth ranked scoring offense will attest with 26.5 points scored per game (which is just ahead of the Vikings 26.3).
If you are starting to notice a pattern here it is that the two teams are pretty evenly matched on offense. How about the other side of the ball?
On defense, there are remnants of the Legion of Boom (a moniker that engendered others like it, such as the Legion of Zoom for the speedy Kansas City Chiefs offense and the Legion of Gloom to describe our illustrious website leader Joe Johnson when the Vikings aren’t winning), but it is not as solid as in their hay day.
The current-day Hawks defense is tougher against the run (ranked 10th at 101.5 yards allowed per game) than they are defending the pass (ranked 29th with 268.7 yards allowed). Compared to the Vikings, the New Boom comes up a little short—the Vikings are 20th against the pass (244.5) and 4th against the rush (94.2)—and they will be hoping for the return of Linval Joseph to shore up that interior against Carson on the ground.
Ultimately, it will take a balanced offensive attack for the Vikings to find their way at CenturyLink Field, where the 12th man will be trying to disrupt their flow. Cousins on his game is a must, and perhaps they should dial up edgy Kirk, sprinting him outside of the pocket where he is comfortable, decisive and very accurate firing the ball to his receivers—with chances looking good that Adam Thielen will be back in the fold. That will force the Boom to pick their poison between Thielen and the red-hot Stefon Diggs.
Points might come at a premium in this one, but a full-team effort—right out of the gate (no waiting until the intermission)—is the recipe for victory. If there is no bye-week rust, which the Purple cannot afford this week, they will come out with the win and set themselves up well for the stretch run.