Seattle Seahawks vs. Minnesota Vikings: Everything you need to know
With all due respect to Seattle's wins over Green Bay and Carolina, Monday night's game will be the biggest of the season thus far for the Seahawks.
The Seahawks (7-5) entered the weekend as the top team in the NFC wild card race with Minnesota (6-5-1) right behind them. A win for the Vikings would thrust them into the top spot. The good news for both the Seahawks and the Vikings is that on Sunday Carolina (6-7) lost 26-20 at Cleveland, Washington (6-7) lost 40-16 at the New York Giants and Philadelphia (6-7) lost 29-23 at NFC East leading Dallas (8-5) in overtime.
So regardless of what happens on Monday night, both Seattle and Minnesota will remain in the top two wild card spots with three weeks of action remaining. The winner, of course, would need a complete meltdown to miss the playoffs.
How and where to watch
Betting line: Seahawks minus 3
Time: 5:15 p.m., Monday.
Where: CenturyLink Field, Seattle.
Radio: Portland, KFXX, 1080 AM and Portland, KGON, 92.3 FM
Seattle LB K.J. Wright will miss his 11th game of the season with a knee injury.
WR Doug Baldwin OUT. Baldwin dealing with hip injury announced pregame.
RG D.J. Fluker is listed as doubtful. WR Doug Baldwin (hip) and RB Rashaad Penny (ankle) are questionable.
Out for the Vikings are CB Trae Waynes (concussion), WR Chad Beebe (hamstring) and TE Dave Morgan (knee).
LB Eric Kendricks (knee) is questionable.
Losing Fluker for this game could be a problem for Seattle, which runs the ball much more effectively with him in the lineup.
When Seattle has the ball
Quarterback Russell Wilson is going to need to make some plays on Monday night.
This Minnesota defense is not the dominant force that it was last season but it is tough against the run, holding opponents to 99.2 yards per game on 3.7 per carry. The Vikings seventh-ranked run defense could become even more of a problem if Seattle right guard D.J. Fluker is out. He is listed as doubtful.
Seattle's rushing attack leads the NFL (148.8) but struggled against high-end rushing defenses belonging to No. 2 Chicago, No. 4 Dallas and No. 6 Carolina.
Minnesota's pass defense is also quality and ranks No. 9 in the NFL and has racked up 36 sacks (eighth). Nothing will come easy and Wilson will need to be special, as he was in Carolina.
When Minnesota has the ball
Minnesota has one of the top passing offenses in the game in terms of volume averaging 274.8 yards per game (8th in the NFL) but that has only produced an unimpressive 22.9 points per game (18th). The problem is that the Vikings run the ball very poorly (86.1 yards per game), have converted on just 38.9 percent of third down attempts (19th) and have a 52.8 red zone scoring per percentage (22nd).
Minnesota signed quarterback Kirk Cousins to a lucrative deal to provide a boost to the offense. However, the move has only resulted in gaudy passing numbers with little overall results.
Still, this offense can be dangerous and features one of the best receiver tandems in the NFL, Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen.
Seattle's pass defense has been vulnerable against quality passing (Rams, Chargers, Panthers) teams and ranks 19th overall against the pass.
Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer said his team is preparing for Seattle's versatile rushing attack.
“I think they’re using [it] to their advantage [that] they are running the football a lot," Zimmer told MinnesotaVikings.com. "They have a really good zone scheme that they do. They have a few traps, a little bit of crack toss. They’re tough, physical guys that come off the ball and get some double teams and try to remove you off the football.”
Then of course, playing off of the rushing attack is Wilson, who Zimmer said Minnesota must be versatile to stop.
“I think you have to mix it up on him,” Zimmer. “They have some movement passes where they get out of the pocket. Then they have some scrambles and they have some normal play action drop backs.”
Seattle has played in eight games this season decided by eight points or less and this one should be no different. Minnesota's combination of a stout defense and high-octane passing attack will allow the Vikings to have a chance at winnin at CenturyLink Field. However, the Vikings are 2-3-1 on the road this season and don't have one road win against a team .500 or better.
In other words, this is a very average football team that tends to fold on the road against top competition and Seattle is playing about as well as anyone in the NFL over the past few weeks.
FINAL SCORE: Seattle 27, Minnesota 23