This weekend’s biggest matchup is up at TCF Bank Stadium where the Vikings have been playing all season waiting for their new home to be built. It’s home to the Golden Gophers but it has been good to the Vikings for the interim as they posted a 6-2 record there in 2015. One of their two home losses came at the hands of this weekend’s opponent the Seattle Seahawks who dominated their Week 13 tilt 38-7.
In that game Russell Wilson went for 274 yards and three touchdowns in the air while adding a score and 51 yards on the ground. Undrafted Rookie Thomas Rawls (IR-Broken Ankle) had himself a hundred yard game and a score while WR Doug Baldwin caught two of Wilson’s three touchdown passes. On the defensive side for Seattle that day they sacked Teddy Bridgewater four times and intercepted him once.
For Minnesota it was their worst game on both sides of the ball all year. They collected 31 rushing yards total on the day and Bridgewater only had 118 passing yards with the lone score coming from a Cordarrelle Patterson 101-yard kick return down 38-0. The game was lopsided from the kick-off and if Minnesota hopes to advance on a day that may not reach zero-degrees fahrenheit they’re going to need to get Russell Wilson to feel the pass rush early. Everson Griffin and Brian Robinson were nowhere to be found in that game at the beginning of December and with the way Seattle has been playing in recent weeks, it’s going to be imperative for Minnesota to get off on the snap count and not allow Wilson time to dance around and make plays in the passing game.
It’s undecided whether or not Marshawn Lynch will play in this game, but with the way Seattle has closed out the season Pete Carroll may not want to change the dynamic of the offense. The temperature and wind should benefit the Vikings immensely as Seattle hasn’t had to play in the type of weather they’re going to encounter on Sunday Afternoon. It’s going to be bright but it’s going to be extremely cold and that should help Minnesota and their homefield advantage. In Week 13 which was more than a month the ago the game time temperature was very moderate, that won’t be the case on Sunday with projected wind chills to be 15-20 degrees below zero.
Now regardless of the weather, the Vikings need to play better, they got embarrassed in front of their home crowd and now they have that same team coming back with tons of momentum on their side and the knowledge of knowing they won here just over a month ago. Minnesota has been playing well since that embarrassing loss (3-2) and will look to silence their critics who think they have no shot in this game. Most everyone is picking Seattle and they haven’t moved much from their opening line as a four point favorite. Teddy Bridgewater will be playing in his first playoff game in his second year as a pro while Russell Wilson will be playing in his ninth with a mark of 6-2 entering Sunday.
Minnesota has a tall task ahead of them, they’d have close to no shot if the game were up in Seattle, but it’s not and that is their saving grace. In order for the Vikings to advance to a rematch with Arizona in the desert they’re going to need play sound defense. They need to stop Christine Michael or Marshawn Lynch or Fred Jackson first and foremost and then focus on getting the ball out of Wilson’s hands quickly not allowing him to extend plays. You should see a healthy dose of blitzing in the cold weather as to make it as uncomfortable as possible for the former Badger.
Offensively it’s simple for Minnesota, get Adrian Peterson going and allow for Teddy Bridgewater to be a game manager. Bridgewater will be looked on as well to extend plays with his feet especially on third downs. If Peterson has a big day and Teddy Bridgewater stays on his feet the Vikings will win. If Peterson is ineffective and Bridgewater has to win the game with his arm then Seattle has executed their game plan to perfection.
A lot of people are picking Seattle, but I think Minnesota will be looking to get revenge for their ugliest loss of 2015 with the cold being their aid. Never has Russell Wilson played in this kind of weather, not at Wisconsin and not in his pro career. Minnesota has been practicing in this and has played games outdoors after the Metrodome roof collapsed a few years back. It won’t be easy, the Seahawks are two time defending NFC Champions, but they’re a different team on the road and weather could be a killer. Look for Minnesota to take advantage and ride themselves into a Divisional Saturday Night tilt against the Cardinals who they played very well until the final series just a few weeks ago.
For the record I do think both NFC North teams will continue on after this weekend.