After a thrilling Steelers/Bengals game in the AFC Wild-Card match-up, let’s hope the NFC side can be half as entertaining as that 4th quarter! It’s playoff time in the NFL, and for the first time in a while, it seems like the winner of this year’s Super Bowl can truly be any one of these twelve teams. There’s been great balance in 2015-2016, and our first match-up highlights exactly that as the Seattle Seahawks will take to the road to take on the NFC North champions, the Minnesota Vikings.
For the Seahawks, this year has been all about redemption for what happened in the final minutes of last year’s Super Bowl to New England. That was game they had won – but an untimely interception thrown by Russell Wilson on the goal-line sealed their fate. Now the Seahawks will look to prove they’ve learned from their mistakes and are ready to take back what’s theirs. Following some early season struggles, Seattle has been red-hot of late, playing excellent defense and boasting one of the more prolific passing attacks in football throughout November and December. Even without Marshawn Lynch coming out of the backfield, the Seahawks definitely have the pieces to get back to the Super Bowl.
In their way are the Minnesota Vikings – a team nobody really expected to be here. Sure at the outset of the season many saw them as a potential darkhorse, but to beat out the Packers and win the NFC North? That was downright impressive. Lucky for them their reward is one of the best teams in football with loads of post-season experience in Seattle. Minnesota plays excellent defense and with a full slate of personnel should be able to make things difficult on the Seahawks’ offense. Where things will get interesting will be watching young quarterback Teddy Bridgewater go head-to-head with the Seahawks’ smothering defense. This promises to be an unbelievable football game in Minnesota, and with temperatures scheduled to be well-below the freezing mark, it should be fascinating to watch in the comfort of our living rooms! It’s Wild-Card weekend in the NFL, so read on below for more detailed game analysis and an official prediction for Seahawks/Vikings.
Seahawks vs. Vikings Betting Odds:
Seattle Seahawks -4 (-115)
@ Minnesota Vikings +4 (-105)
Over 39.5 (-110)
Under 39.5 (-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Seahawks vs. Vikings Pick:
On offense for the Seahawks, if Russell Wilson continues his dominance in the passing game, I’m not certain there is a defensive unit in the league that can stop him. For all the talk surrounding how solid Minnesota’s defense is, it sure didn’t fare well back on December 6th when they went head-to-head against Russell Wilson and this new-look passing offense. This match-up is the key to this game, and Minnesota will desperately need to find a way to disrupt the rhythm Wilson is currently in. Ever since an offensive line personnel change after Week 9, Wilson’s sack rate has gone way down, as in it’s virtually been cut in half. He’s been precise in his throws, rarely turning the ball over, and as a result he’s been able to connect on many big plays with his downfield receivers. The trio of Baldwin, Kearse, and Lockett have all been very good of late, and it’s uncertain whether Minnesota possesses the depth to limit all three within their secondary. Expect the Seahawks to test the Vikings deep, and have success with that approach, as they have the entire second half of the season. Without Lynch in the backfield, Christine Michael has been rejuvenated in Seattle and should still give the Seahawks some decent yardage. In a battle of Seattle’s great offense vs. the Vikings’ stingy defense, lean Seahawks due to their big-play ability.
On the other side of the football, it is going to be really interesting to see how Teddy Bridgewater fares in his first playoff game against this vaunted Seahawks defense. This is especially true as the Vikings are primarily run-oriented on offense, led by Adrian Peterson. However, with the Seahawks being an excellent run-stuffing team, there may be more of an onus on Bridgewater to step up and make plays for his offense. Unfortunately for Bridgewater, he’s going to pressured a lot. As has been the case all season for the former Louisville Cardinal, he hasn’t gotten all that much help from his offensive line. Against a ferocious front-seven like the Seahawks boast, that could prove problematic. Seattle gets pressure on 32.7% of their opponent’s dropbacks – a very high figure that could tilt the balance in this match-up. Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril have been excellent at rushing the passer all season long, and because of this expect to see Bridgewater running all over the field looking to escape this duo on Sunday.
Ultimately, I can’t see either offense doing much of anything on Sunday – especially in the windy and cold temperatures that will be the story on Sunday. But it is clear that the Seahawks boast the better offense and defense in this match-up and that should tilt the balance in their favour, and negate the Vikings’ home-crowd advantage. Seattle will pressure Bridgewater at will, forcing them into 3rd-and-long situations, or turnovers. On offense, Wilson has put up monstrous numbers of late, and he’s done so against better defenses than Minnesota’s. The Seahawks’ plethora of speedy wideouts should stretch the field, and the Vikings have been vulnerable at times to that home-run play. All it’ll take is a couple, and look for the Seahawks to roll onto the divisional round next Sunday.
PICK = Seahawks -4 (-115)