Six Points: Seahawks vs. Vikings
The Seattle Seahawks will engage in a frigid Wild Card battle with the Minnesota Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium this Sunday. Although the Vikings are the higher-seeded team in this matchup, the Seahawks invaded this same venue on Dec. 6 and left with a resounding, 38-7 victory.
Will the Vikings apply lessons leaned from the embarrassing loss, or will the Seahawks solidify themselves as the truly superior team?
Here are three keys to the game for both the Seahawks and the Vikings.
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1. Keep riding the hot hand of Russell Wilson
The frosty conditions may be the only thing capable of cooling off quarterback Russell Wilson, who has thrown for 24 touchdowns against only one interception in his last seven games. Wilson's decision-making has been almost flawless during the torrid stretch with a passer rating of at least 123.7 in each of the six wins. He also hurt the Vikings with his feet when they last met, rushing for 51 yards on nine carries.
2. Play Adrian Peterson straight up
The Vikings will try to give running back Adrian Peterson at least double the amount of carries he had the previous meeting (eight), but that also plays into the strength of Seattle's defense, which ranked No. 1 against the run with an average of 81.5 rushing yards allowed per game. The Seahawks have been vulnerable to strong passing games, but with Richard Sherman set to shadow rookie wideout Stefon Diggs, the front seven can focus on Peterson.
3. Take deep shots to Tyler Lockett
Tyler Lockett, the reigning NFC Special Teams Player of the Week, had seven catches for 90 yards on seven targets in last month's matchup with the Vikings. The rookie speedster had 25 receptions and five touchdown catches during Seattle's recent five-game winning streak; a few deep pass attempts to him will open the middle of the field for Doug Baldwin, who has 11 TDs in his last six games.
1. Win the battle of beastly running backs
The best running back battle of Wild Card weekend will be between Seattle's Marshawn Lynch and Minnesota's Adrian Peterson. Both players are notoriously tough runners, and the more effective ball-carrier will likely lead his team to victory on Sunday. While Peterson just claimed the 2015 NFL rushing title, Lynch should have fresher legs after sitting out since mid-November with an abdominal injury. The Vikings need their All-Pro ball-carrier to be on top of his game this Sunday.
2. Eliminate Teddy Bridgewater's poor decisions
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is at his best when he's not trying to do too much. The Vikings beat the Green Bay Packers by a touchdown in Week 17, despite the fact that Bridgewater threw for fewer than 100 yards and did not find the end zone. The win would have been even easier, if he didn't try a left-handed pass that resulted in an interception. The second-year signal-caller must let Adrian Peterson and Minnesota's staunch defense do most of the work for him in his first playoff game.
3. Freeze Russell Wilson's passing game
Russell Wilson is one of the hottest quarterbacks in the league right now, but a healthier Vikings squad may be able to slow his streak this time around. Safety Harrison Smith should take away the deep options. If defensive end Everson Griffen can create some pressure up front, athletic linebackers in Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr won't let Wilson escape for a big gain. The freezing temperatures at TCF Bank Stadium could halt his red-hot passing attack, forcing the Seahawks to keep the ball on the ground.