Once again, it's prediction time for this week's contest, and for the first time in a long time, it's a playoff edition! We're looking at the Wild Card Weekend contest between the Minnesota Vikings and the Seattle Seahawks at TCF Bank Stadium, and it's time to call your shot for who you think is going to win this one. Here's our weekly prediction widget, courtesy of our friends at The Crowd's Line.
Yes, we all know what happened last time these two teams got together. . .Thomas Rawls ran wild, Russell Wilson went crazy, and the Vikings got waxed to the tune of 38-7 at TCF Bank Stadium. I don't think we can expect another blowout in this one, that's for sure. . .the weather conditions are going to see to that.
The last time these two teams played, the Vikings played the entire game without defensive tackle Linval Joseph (who was inactive) and only one drive with safety Harrison Smith and linebacker Anthony Barr. All three of those players are now healthy and ready to go, and their presence is going to make a huge impact on things this Sunday, I think. While the Seahawks ran wild without Joseph in the middle in the first game between these teams, Joseph has been one of the best run stuffers in the league this year, and I don't think the Seattle offensive line is going to be able to push him around on Sunday. If the Vikings can slow down the Seattle run game, they have to do something else they didn't do in the first match-up. . .keep Russell Wilson contained.
Wilson toasted the Vikings in the first match-up, and he did a lot of his damage on plays where he was allowed to get outside the pocket and keep plays alive. It is imperative that the Vikings do a better job of keeping Wilson inside the pocket in this game. The St. Louis Rams, who swept the Seahawks this season, used their talented defensive front to keep Wilson inside the pocket, and it played a big role in them being able to emerge victorious in both of their match-ups with the Seahawks this year.
When the Vikings have the ball, you have to assume that Adrian Peterson is going to be the focal point of the offense once again. Even though he's dealing with an injury, he's going to be out there taking handoffs from Teddy Bridgewater and hoping to do much better than his performance in the first game between these two teams. While his performance is going to be important, the key to this one might be getting Bridgewater going.
In the last game between these teams, Norv Turner was still in his "seven steps and chuck it deep" mindset on offense, even though the Seahawks looked to be conceding short passes if Bridgewater wanted to take them. The Vikings need to continue the sort of unpredictability on offense that the team has shown over the past few weeks, which will mean keeping Jerick McKinnon involved as a change of pace. Oh, and maybe mix in the occasion pass on first down rather than just simply handing the ball off on the first play of every series.
Of course, none of those things will matter if the Vikings can't do a significantly better job of blocking up front than they did in the first game. We've been over how important the performance of the offensive line is to Minnesota's chance of winning this one. In the last game, the Seahawks got to Bridgewater without having to blitz frequently, as the offensive line just got whooped for four quarters and Seattle could consistently drop seven into coverage without any serious worries. The Vikings need to keep their quarterback clean and upright if they want to win this one, even if the run game is going to be the focal point of the offense in this one.
A lot of things about this game point to a Seattle victory, and that's the way a lot of people seem to be leaning. Seattle finished the season on a pretty nice run, they're a very seasoned team as far as the playoffs are concerned, and Russell Wilson is playing very good football.
But this is the playoffs. . .and, damn it, I want to see my team keep playing. So yeah, I'm not making this pick with my head.
Vikings 23, Seahawks 20, and Minnesota gets their chance at a rematch with Arizona next Saturday night.
How about you. . .who've you got in this one, ladies and gentlemen?