9-2 Seattle hosts 8-3 Minnesota this coming Monday night in a clash of likely NFC playoff teams, and if the chips fall correctly, these could be division winners when all is said and done.
Minnesota has the same record as NFC North leader Green Bay, but by way of a head to head loss they are in second place. Seattle beat NFC West leader San Francisco two weeks ago, but since the 49ers have one more win than they do, they are the front runners. Seattle gets another shot at San Francisco as they host them in Seattle in week 17, and Minnesota can even the score with Green Bay when they host the Packers in week 16. But as it stands today, if the playoffs started next week, this would be the #5 Seahawks versus the #6 Vikings, as both would lose their division to a team just a game in front of them.
Seattle enters this game on a four-game win streak, keeping pace with the elite contenders in the conference as the regular season approaches its final month. Minnesota will arrive in the Emerald City with a two-game winning streak, and fresh off their bye, and they could even have all-pro wideout Adam Thielen back in action, which would make for a great test for Seattle’s secondary. Weather conditions are currently expected to be in the mid-40s by kickoff, with cloudy skies and minimal wind, which should make for a great showdown to close week 13. With rain expected earlier in the day, there could be a lot of slick turf/recycled tires to run on, which would only add to the entertainment factor.
With just four regular-season games remaining once this game is in the books, there is little margin for error. The North and West divisions are likely to produce two playoff teams each, and the South and East one apiece, but Seattle needs to make sure they keep working at getting the highest seed possible even if they are virtually assured a playoff spot at this point.
Coming in to this game, both teams rank in the top 10 in rushing defense (see below), so the running backs will have their work cut out for them to prove their ability against elite run stuffers, but the QBs will probably have a lot of good luck in the passing game given that both teams rank in the bottom half of the league in pass defense.
|Seattle||23rd||21st – 23.9||29th||10th||10||23|
|Minnesota||15th||6th – 18.6||20th||6th||10||31|
On offense, these two teams are virtually identical when looking at the numbers (see table below). They are both in the top 10 in rushing offense, and the top 15 in passing, and score a healthy 26ish points per game. Which means we should be in for a high-scoring showdown come Monday night, but we’d settle for Seattle winning 48-0 also.
|Seattle||5th||7th – 26.5||11th||6th|
|Minnesota||8th||8th – 26.3||15th||4th|
Monday night’s game will likely be a playoff atmosphere with both teams needing this win equally and both having proven they can win in a variety of ways against any opponent. While the Seahawks boast arguably the best QB in the NFL, their ground game has been hit or miss, although the stats don’t always tell that side of the story. The table below illustrates how RB Chris Carson lines up with Vikings RB Dalvin Cook.
|Player||Yards||TDs||Fumbles||Yards Per Attempt|
It’s strange that Carson is in the top 10 in yards per game and per carry but is barely on the radar in TDs this late in the season and has more fumbles than any RB in the league. These numbers point to a lack of explosive running plays that defined this team early in Russell Wilson’s career, and this is the time of year they need their power running game more than ever. Carson punching in TDs once they get inside the red zone would definitely provide confidence this team’s run-first offensive philosophy is the right way to go, and this time of year, it most definitely is. Seattle needs to get creative and find ways to maintain balance and establish the run early, not wait until they have a comfortable lead after Wilson has used his magic to keep the team going in the right direction. Wilson has roughly one game’s worth of passing attempts more than Minnesota QB Kirk Cousins, which helps illustrate the point.
Speaking of Cousins, he is honestly a guy most people forget exists if not for his internet famous “You like that!” postgame rant at his then-GM. His numbers are always strong, but he doesn’t put together many highlight-reel plays that show off his talent. He can move around in the pocket and he extends plays with his feet, and what most are not aware of is his efficiency. He is completing more than 70% of his passes and has turned the ball over on just 3 of his 320 pass attempts. Less than 1 percent turnover rate is ideal for NFL QBs and Cousins has hovered around 2% since becoming a full-time starter in 2015. Wilson has nearly identical stats to Cousins (see table below) and is a more well-rounded athlete, and his ability to turn a broken play into a big gain is what gets him national attention. That and winning – with a win over the Eagles last Sunday, Wilson completed his 8th consecutive winning season going back to his rookie season, a first in NFL history.
|Player||Yards||TDs||INTs||Completion %||Passer Rating|
Both teams feature a field-stretching deep threat as their WR1, and both players are on the verge of 1000-yard seasons and on pace to clear 10 TDs each. With a true burner attacking them on the outside, both of these secondaries will need to be on their “A” game and try to bring help over the top to force the QB to take the underneath routes.
|Player||Receptions||Yards||TDs||Yards Per Catch|
Both teams need this win to keep their hopes of a division crown and high playoff seed alive and it should be a fun back and forth game between two elite teams at the top of the NFC that appear to be mirror images of each other. Seattle should be able to win this one, but it will greatly depend on which version of them shows up at kickoff – the fast start playmaking team they know they can be, or the slow start frustrating team they have shown in some games. Let’s call it what it is – they have been lucky to escape some of their games with a win after falling behind early only to create some extra possessions via turnovers and retake the lead. It won’t be likely they can pull off similar feats in the playoffs, and they should avoid falling into those traps now that each game means more with each passing week.
Speaking of important games, you’re likely a week or two away from your fantasy playoffs, assuming you play in a league that plays their championship in week 16, and you only send a max of 6 teams to the big dance. Here are some start/sit suggestions for players in this game: make sure you keep an eye on Thielen’s health on Sunday morning so you know if you need to start someone else if he’s trending towards sitting out. The last time he played coming back from a hamstring injury, he barely made it through one quarter of the game (week 9 at Kansas City) and burned anyone that trusted him. With both teams expected to put up a lot of points, we’re not advising starting their defenses unless you play in a league that does not give negative points for yards or points accumulated.
Seattle Seahawks –
QB Russell Wilson – Start
RB Chris Carson – Start
RB Rashaad Penny – Sit
WR Tyler Lockett – Start
WR DK Metcalf – Flex
WR Josh Gordon – Sit
TE Jacob Hollister – Start
K Jason Myers – Sit
Defense/special teams – Sit
Minnesota Vikings –
QB Kirk Cousins – Sit
RB Dalvin Cook – Start
WR Stefon Diggs – Start
WR Adam Thielen – Start
Kyle Rudolph – Sit
K Dan Bailey – Start
Defense/special teams – Sit