This Sunday the Minnesota Vikings will be making a very tough toad trip to Seattle in the loudest stadium in the league, CenturyLink Field. Currently rested at 5-3 the Vikings are looking to improve a lowly 1-2 road record and the task won’t come easy. The 4-4 Seahawks have been a very inconsistent team with wins against premium teams such as the Patriots and Packers, but losses against lower ranked teams such as the Rams. Many seem to think that the Seahawks should have a 3-5 record with there extremely controversial call against the Green Bay Packers. This will be a very even matchup for both teams this week as both teams are desperate for another win to keep the playoff hopes pushing.
Dominating the run game: The Minnesota Vikings feature the NFL’s best running back in Adrian Peterson. Leading the league in rushing yards this season with 775 yards, the recovered left knee isn’t holding him back at all. He averages 5.1 yards per carry and is tied for 3rd in the league with most attempts per game, 18.9, and clearly shows his productivity on offense hasn’t changed. Peterson has eight rushes of 20+ yards, leading the league in that category. Adrian finds ways to dominate even the top premiere rushing defense teams such as the Cardinals, Lions, 49ers, and Buccaneers where in total he has 464 yards (59.8% of yards) and a average rush of 6.3 yards. In fact, Peterson plays his best when the offense needs him to against some of the best defenses in the league. For the Vikings to win the game they will need to establish a running game early and rely on Peterson often, especially if Ponder continues to have his offensive struggles.
On the other side of the ball, the Vikings need to find anyway possible to limit Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch who is living up to the name Beastmode. He isn’t far behind Peterson in the stat category, actually he is trailing him by only a matter of yards. Lynch is 2nd in the league in rushing with a total of 757 yards with an average of 4.8 yards per game. Lynch is a powerful running back, a back that can break tackles and break a big run when you think the play is dead. This Vikings run defense has not been as impressive as they have been in previous years. Minnesota is 16th in the league with opposing rushing years per game with 107.6 but it is a fair argument to point out the elite running backs they have battled against. Maurice Jones-Drew, Frank Gore, and Doug Martin are all among the leagues best running backs and have put their talents against Minnesota this year. To go along with those three, the Vikings tried their hand at defending the elusive quarterback Robert Griffin III, who ended up rushing all over the Vikings defense. Together those 4 players rushed for 413 yards against Minnesota and have 48% of the total rushing yards against the Vikings for the entire year. If the Vikings want to win the defensive battle stopping Lynch is a must. The Vikings defense needs to make Seattle put the ball in the air and in the hands of rookie quarterback Russell Wilson.
Getting a rhythm on the road: With a 4-1 record at home, the Minnesota Vikings do a good job in front of the home crowd but have consistently struggled on the road. A 1-2 record while on the road will not help any playoff push. Their 2 losses on the road came against very beatable teams, the Indianapolis Colts and the Washington Redskins. It’s not going to get any easier this week as the Vikings visit CenturyLink and a Seattle team that is undefeated this year at home. It is said that CenturyLink Field is suppose to be the loudest stadium in the league due to its structural design. Ever since getting the new stadium in 2002, the Seahawks have been one of the most dominant home teams having a record of 54-29. Vikings need to keep an offensive rhythm throughout the game and try there best to silence the crowd. For the Vikings to have success against the Seahawks, the Vikings must take the crowd out of the game.
Containing Percy Harvin: In his fourth year in the NFL, Percy Harvin is establishing himself as one of the best receivers in the league. His quick and elusive ability titles him as the most versatile player in the league. Tied for first in the league with 60 receptions, Harvin is one of the most important pieces to the puzzle and serves as Christian Ponder’s safeguard. He is great as a receiver but may be an even better kick returner. He is first in the NFC in average yard per return with 35.7 yards. Harvin is tied 1st in the NFL with returns beyond the 40 yard line with 4 total and almost seems disappointed when the kickoff is out of the end zone for a touchback.
For Seattle to contain Harvin and limit his production will be a grueling task for the Seahawks special teams and defense. The Seahawks secondary is one of the best in the league giving up 224.1 yards per game, with 9 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Percy, who plays primarily in the slot, catches most of Ponder’s passes on quick screen passes. Sometimes Harvin will be put on the outside receiver position to go long, but the longest catch the Seahawks have given up this year is only 52 yards, 5th best in the NFL. As far as special teams goes, Seattle is one of the best in the league at stop big play kick returns. This season the average opposing kick return is 20.6 yards and the longest return given up is only 29 yards. This will be a very tough matchup for Harvin as he faces off against on the premium defense’s in the nation.
Keeping pressure on the quarterback: Christian Ponder, a second-year quarterback from Florida State, has had his fair share of big-play moments, but has struggled with turnovers and inconsistent play recently. Of his 7 interceptions, most of them have been caused by defensive pressure and hurried passes. Seattle has a great front 7 and they all know how the cause miscommunication and mistakes for opposing quarterbacks. With a total of 21 sacks on the year, the Seattle crowd will cause more confusion for Christian Ponder and the Vikings offense. Defensive end Chris Clemons leads the team with 7 sacks and is in the chase for the league leader in sacks. Fellow rookie Bruce Irvin, who has the teams second most amount of sacks with 4.5, has been playing lights out recently. Irvin was a head scratching pick in the draft but has turned out to be one of the best pass rushers on the team. Pressure on the quarterback will cause major problems for the Vikings offense and give the secondary opportunities for turnovers.