By Joseph Gunther
The Minnesota Vikings knew a week ago that they were going to make the playoffs. What they didn’t know is what seed they would be, who they would play, and where they would play it. They didn’t find out the answer to all three questions until they beat the Green Bay Packers in the final game of the regular season.
Once Xavier Rhodes and Anthony Barr broke up the Packers Hail Mary attempt at the buzzer, the Vikings knew they were entering the playoffs as the NFC North champion, the No. 3 seed and hosting the Seattle Seahawks in the first round of the NFL playoffs.
The Vikings and Seahawks played in Week 13 at TCF Bank Stadium. It wasn’t close with the Seahawks blowing out the Vikings 38-7 on Dec. 6.
The Seahawks finished the season with a 10-6 record, three games behind NFC West Division champion Arizona Cardinals. They finished the season winning six of their last seven and eight of their last 10, including five straight wins on the road. They have outscored their opponents 224-98 over their last six.
Seahawks on Offense
Statistically, the Seahawks are a much stronger rushing offense than passing. They rank third in the league with 141.8 rushing yards per game and 20th in passing yards per game with 236.9.
The Seahawks racked up 433 total yards of offense in the last meeting between the two teams. They tallied 260 passing yards and 173 yards on the ground.
Seahawks on Defense
The Seahawks have been known for their defense, most notably the Legion of Boom secondary. They boast the league’s second ranked defense with 291.8 yards allowed per game. They are second in passing yards allowed with 210.3 per game and first in rushing yards allowed per game with 81.5.
The Vikings couldn’t get anything going offensively in the first meeting with the Seahawks. They had 94 passing yards and 31 rushing yards.
Seahawks Players to Watch
Quarterback Russell Wilson completed 21 of 27 passes for 274 yards and three touchdowns while posting a 96.2 QBR and 146 rating. He does not possess the size scouts look for in a quarterback, but he is an accurate thrower and has the mobility to escape the pocket. The key to stopping him is to keep him in the pocket and take away his ability to see downfield.
Defensively, Michael Bennett gave the Vikings fits. The defensive end got two hits on Teddy Bridgewater, sacked him once, and made three tackles for a loss. He is an active lineman that can make plays anywhere along the defensive line. The Vikings need to get a push with their offensive line and it starts with knowing where Bennett is lined up.
The Seahawks dominated the first meeting and the general public believes it will happen again. They are considered the hottest team in the league and a favorite to make another run at the Super Bowl.
However, the likelihood of another blow out is unlikely. The Vikings have a different feeling surrounding the team. There is more confidence after beating a rival to win the division and they are expected to be a lot healthier on defense. In the first meeting, the Vikings started the game without starters defensive tackle Linval Joseph and safety Andrew Sendejo and then lost starters linebacker Anthony Barr and safety Harrison Smith very early in the game.
The game should be a much closer game than the previous meeting and will likely come down to a few plays in the fourth quarter.
Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. Joseph is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.