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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Preview: Vikings’ pressure key in corralling Russell Wilson, Seahawks

By Andrew Krammer

The details

Minnesota Vikings (8-3) vs. the Seattle Seahawks (6-5)

When, where: 12 p.m. CT on Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium

Line: Even

Series: Seahawks lead 8-5

Last meeting: Marshawn Lynch scored three times, twice on the ground and once through the air, Matt Cassel threw a pick six to Walter Thurmond and the Seahawks routed the Vikings, 41-20, at CenturyLink Field on Nov. 17, 2013.

Coaches: Mike Zimmer (15-12, second season) vs. Pete Carroll (97-71, 10th season)

Last week: The Vikings forced three takeaways in Atlanta for their fourth straight road win; the Seahawks scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns to come back and beat the Steelers.

Corralling Russell Wilson – Sunday’s bout with the Seahawks will give Everson Griffen, Anthony Barr and the Vikings defense one of its toughest challenges of the season in dual-threat quarterback Russell Wilson, whose 399 rushing yards trail only MVP-candidate Cam Newton among passers. Wilson has thrived in the pocket as well, throwing eight touchdowns over the last two games. “I think that the confidence to see things well and not be surprised by the pressures that are coming has allowed us to keep really on rhythm,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told reporters this week. Under Zimmer, the Vikings find creative ways to pressure the quarterback without a high volume of blitz calls the last few weeks. Zimmer’s loaded fronts give the appearance of a heavy-bltiz defense, but the Vikings are actually middle of the pack (16th) in extra pressure sent. But when the Vikings do blitz, they’re very efficient at getting to the quarterback. A strong four-man rush has also been a big factor in the Vikings’ success. With Wilson the focal point, Sunday will feature a chess match between Zimmer and Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. “They’re unpredictable in their calls, so it makes it tougher,” Zimmer said.

More musical chairs – Linval Joseph will miss his first game of the season with a foot injury, meaning more shuffle along the defensive line. Sharrif Floyd will move to nose tackle, with Tom Johnson starting at his natural defensive tackle spot. While the absence of Marshawn Lynch appears as a break, Floyd, Johnson and the Vikings are tasked with slowing red-hot rookie Thomas Rawls, who is averaging 5.6 yards per carry on 122 attempts this season. The Seahawks’ zone-blocking scheme could help Floyd, whose quickness off the ball has taken advantage of other zone schemes this season. The Vikings rank 23rd against the run, according to Football Outsiders, and will be without one of their best run stoppers in Joseph against the Seahawks’ second-ranked rushing attack.

Sticking to identity – The Seahawks have allowed a lot of yards recently to quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer, but don’t expect the Vikings to change their approach on Sunday. Adrian Peterson leads the league in rushing yards (1,164) and attempts (237), doing it behind heavy personnel sets that aim to physically overpower opponents and open lanes. Tight ends Kyle Rudolph, Rhett Ellison and MyCole Pruitt, as well as fullback Zach Line, could be in line for hefty blocking duties against a Seahawks defense boasting some of the best talent in the league. The Vikings are 8-0 when Peterson carries the ball more than 16 times. And Seattle currently ranks 11th against the run, according to Football Outsiders. While Teddy Bridgewater has led game-tying or game-winning drives against Chicago and St. Louis, dropping him back a bunch against the likes of Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas can’t sound appealing.

Holding it together – Brandon Fusco, T.J. Clemmings and the Vikings’ offensive line will be in for a long day against a Seahawks’ front that boasts Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and Bruce Irvin – a trio combining for 18.5 sacks in 11 games this season. “They’re very active,” Zimmer said. “They have a lot of movement, Bennett lines up all over the place, Avril has got quickness and speed. The other guy, [Irvin], he’s got big-time speed coming off the edge.” A common thread in the Vikings’ three losses is insurmountable pressure on Teddy Bridgewater. They’ve given up 18 sacks in three losses, compared to 13 sacks over eight wins. Communication from Joe Berger to Matt Kalil and back to Bridgewater will be key for this front to stay on the same page and decipher the Seahawks’ pressures.

‘Signature win’? – The Vikings’ win in Atlanta was very important to Zimmer, whether because it meant his team didn’t lose back-to-back games, the Vikings surpassed their seven-win total from last season, or Zimmer won at his former employer. However, Sunday’s tilt against the back-to-back NFC Champion Seahawks will give the Vikings their greatest measuring stick this side of the Green Bay Packers. An uneven season and injuries have plagued the Seahawks, but they remain one of the most talented groups in the NFL. As they remain atop the NFC North, the Vikings can send a statement to the rest of the conference on Sunday, one they failed to make two weeks ago against Green Bay, as they take the home field in a pick-‘em game.

Injury repots

Vikings: DT Linval Joseph (foot), S Andrew Sendejo (knee) are out; LB Anthony Barr (hand/groin), S Harrison Smith (knee) are questionable; S Robert Blanton (ankle) and CB Trae Waynes (ankle) are probable

Seahawks: Posted when available

Prediction

A noon time slot in a game where the Vikings aren’t favored, at TCF Bank Stadium, lends toward a win for Minnesota, which has fallen flat in front of national audiences. The Seahawks, 2-3 away from CenturyLink, haven’t been the same offense on the road. Vikings 20, Seahawks 16

Additional listening: Andrew Krammer and Judd Zulgad preview Vikings-Seahawks, starting off with how the Vikings could attack a Seahawks defense that has surrendered points recently. Why are there so many Russell Wilson and Teddy Bridgewater comparisons, and are they founded on anything? What has made Peterson so dominant behind this offensive line? Where are we at with Sharrif Floyd, the third-year defensive tackle?

The post Preview: Vikings’ pressure key in corralling Russell Wilson, Seahawks appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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