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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Preview: Healthy Vikings get second shot at Wilson, Seahawks in the playoffs

By Andrew Krammer

Minnesota Vikings (11-5) vs. the Seattle Seahawks (10-6)

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

Line: Seahawks by 5.5

Series: Seahawks lead 9-5

Last meeting: A depleted defense and outmatched offense led to the Vikings’ 38-7 loss to the Seahawks just a month ago at TCF Bank Stadium. Russell Wilson threw for 274 yards, ran for another 51 yards and totaled four touchdowns.

Coaches: Mike Zimmer (18-14, second season) vs. Pete Carroll (93-67, 10th season)

Last week: The Vikings claimed their first NFC North title in six years by defeating the Green Bay Packers in Lambeau; the Seahawks throttled the Cardinals in Arizona, 36-6.

Corralling ‘Houdini’ — The Vikings will once again face red-hot Russell Wilson, though this time they’re healthy. Since the blowout loss to Seattle on Dec. 6, they’ve held opponents to 17.5 points per game. The returns of safety Harrison Smith and linebacker Anthony Barr have helped force a 5-5 TD/INT ratio against over the last three games, including a win over Aaron Rodgers. And they’ll get Linval Joseph back on Sunday after he’s missed four of the last five games with a lingering toe injury. They’ll need all their firepower against Wilson, or ‘Houdini,’ as Mike Zimmer referred to him this week. Wilson accounted for four touchdowns and over 300 combined yards in the first meeting. Though Seattle has allowed 46 sacks this season, one more than Teddy Bridgewater (45), only one sack came against the Vikings last month. Everson Griffen and the Vikings’ rush will be key in rattling a surging offense, if they can bring down Wilson.

On the mend — Returning impact players has allowed the Vikings’ defense to hit its stride lately. For the first time in nearly two months, Barr was off the injury report last week and he was unleashed. In the Vikings’ NFC North-clinching win at Lambeau, Barr was sent after Rodgers 12 times — the most since breaking his left hand on Nov. 8 against St. Louis, per Pro Football Focus. When healthy, both Barr and Smith are heavily involved in the Vikings’ blitz packages and will play key roles in containing Wilson on Sunday. They’ll also need disciplined play from Griffen and the defensive line, which missed a few sack opportunities in the last meeting.

Need ‘A’ game — Perhaps what the Rams showed by defeating the Seahawks on Dec. 27 is the Vikings don’t need lights-out quarterback play. Case Keenum barely threw for 100 yards for St. Louis as they gained an early lead, forced multiple turnovers, harassed Wilson and didn’t turn the ball over. A similar formula could prove fruitful for the Vikings and Teddy Bridgewater, behind a front that was thoroughly handled in the Dec. 6 loss to Seattle. In order to protect the football and play ball control offense, they’ll need an ‘A’ game from the maligned offensive line, which played a part in allowing seven tackles for losses to the Seahawks’ trio of Michael Bennett, Bruce Irvin and Frank Clark during the last meeting.

Advantage, Adrian? — The Seahawks won’t have ‘Beast Mode’ on Sunday as Marshawn Lynch was downgraded to out late Friday night. It’s a continued big loss, but they’ve played well without him. Wilson has a 24-1 TD/INT ratio since Lynch’s November surgery. Meanwhile, Eric Kendricks and the Vikings’ run defense come off one of their best outings on the ground and won’t have to face either of Seattle’s top backs in Lynch or Thomas Rawls. In a chilly January game, the rushing advantage falls on Adrian Peterson. Peterson, the 2015 NFL rushing champion, will have one of the biggest stages of his career to push the Vikings past the first round for the first time in six years. Seattle will likely start Christine Michael, who averaged 6.0 yards per carry on 17 attempts last week in Arizona.

P-p-playoffs — Sunday’s kickoff may possibly be the coldest in Seahawks’ franchise history, though this will be the chilliest game ever for many players on both sides. A high of 4 degrees is currently expected, with winds gusting 8 to 10 miles per hour. The Vikings have long planned for games like this, choosing the east sideline at the outdoor TCF Bank Stadium in order to remain in the sun longer. Fans attending the game are encouraged to bring something for under their feet, whether that be cardboard or Styrofoam. The Vikings will be distributing free hand warmers at the gates and free coffee at a ‘Fan Zone’ on Oak Street. The Unviersity of Minnesota will also be opening up the nearby hockey arena, Mariucci, at 9 a.m. as an indoor reprieve for fans.

Injury reports

Vikings: NT Kenrick Ellis (ankle) is out; NT Linval Joseph (toe), RB Adrian Peterson (low back), DE Everson Griffen (shoulder) and WR Adam Thielen (shoulder/low back) are probable.

Seahawks: RB Marshawn Lynch (abdomen) and TE Luke Wilson (concussion) are out; S Kam Chancellor (pelvis), T Russell Okung (calf), DE Michael Bennett (toe) and WR Tyler Lockett (hip) are probable.

Prediction

Chilling temps and Vikings’ health may even the playing field this time. But it’s hard to pick against Russell Wilson right now. Seattle’s 5-0 on the road since their slow start. Vikings 17, Seahawks 23

Additional listening: Andrew Krammer and Derek Wetmore preview Vikings-Seahawks on the latest episode of the Purple Podcast. What do the Vikings need from Teddy Bridgewater to win against a daunting Seattle defense? Can they learn from St. Louis’ success? The Vikings now have a healthy defense, but have they also found different solutions for mobile quarterbacks?

The post Preview: Healthy Vikings get second shot at Wilson, Seahawks in the playoffs appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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