The Minnesota Vikings and the Seattle Seahawks have hit a rough patch in recent weeks after strong starts to the season.
They hope to get back in the win column in Week 9 in what should be a defensive battle in Seattle. The Seahawks rank third in the NFL in points allowed per game, but they do have to deal with Adrian Peterson and Co. this week.
Here's a breakdown of the clash on Sunday.
Where: CenturyLink Field, Seattle, WA
When: Sunday, Nov. 4 at 4:05 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NFL Sunday Ticket
Betting Line: Seahawks -5, Over/Under 38.5 (via Bovada)
What's At Stake?
The Vikings and everybody else in the NFC North are trying to catch the 6-1 Chicago Bears, who face the Tennessee Titans this week.
The Vikings haven't made it to the playoffs since the 2009 season, when Brett Favre led them to the NFC Championship Game.
The Seahawks find themselves in a precarious position eight games into the season. At 4-4, they are two games behind the NFC West-leading San Francisco 49ers.
On the other hand, they certainly have a shot at earning a wild-card spot and a win over the Vikings this week would help them in that regard.
The Seahawks last won the NFC West in the 2010 season when they made it to the divisional round of the playoffs.
Injury Report (via USA Today)
LB Erin Henderson - Wrist - Questionable
TE John Carlson - Head - Questionable
S Mistral Raymond - Ankle - Questionable
DE Jason Jones - Ankle - Questionable
WR Doug Baldwin - Ankle - Questionable
DB Byron Maxwell - Hamstring - Questionable
DT Jaye Howard - Foot - Questionable
G John Moffitt - Knee - Questionable
WR Braylon Edwards - Knee - Doubtful
What They're Saying
After costly turnovers, missed tackles, penalties, inconsistency and just plain poor run defense plagued the Vikings against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week, Minnesota has been adamant that it will get back to the fundamentals.
Linebacker Jasper Brinkley said after Bucs rookie Doug Martin torched the Vikings for 135 yards and a touchdown on the ground, via the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
A lot of this is just being more fundamentally sound and more assignment sound. A big thing for us is making sure you stay in your gap and not trying to play your gap and somebody else's too. Just do your job.
The Seahawks gave up 28 points to the Detroit Lions last week, but perhaps what will be more concerning heading into the matchup against the Vikings is the battered receiving corps doesn't look so hot.
That status of receivers Braylon Edwards, Doug Baldwin and Ben Obomanu is shaky. Asked if it may prompt changes to the 53-man roster, head coach Pete Carroll said, via the Seattle Times, "We have to consider it because there's a little bit of uncertainty right there. We're looking at our options."
Vikings Player to Watch: Christian Ponder, QB
As we saw against the Buccaneers, it doesn't matter what Adrian Peterson does if second-year quarterback Christian Ponder can't be consistent.
While Peterson did lose a fumble against the Bucs, he also rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown against a strong run defense.
In the meantime, Ponder threw his seventh interception in his last four games and averaged a mediocre 7.2 yards per pass attempt. He's averaging 6.65 yards per attempt this season, 25th among qualifying quarterbacks.
Ponder faces a Seattle defense in Week 9 that is allowing 6.4 yards per attempt this season (fourth in the NFL).
Seahawks Player to Watch: Marshawn Lynch, RB
Minnesota's rush defense was doing just fine until its past three performances. The Vikings have allowed a combined 468 rushing yards in the last three weeks. That included seeing rookie Doug Martin and the normally mediocre LaRod Stephens-Howling gash them.
Marshawn Lynch, of course, is a beast as always. He's rushed for 757 yards this season (second only to Peterson) on 4.8 yards per carry.
Key Matchup: Minnesota Passing Game vs. Seattle Pass Defense
Who will win?
As mentioned above, Peterson will probably make an impact against the Seahawks, but Ponder's performance is the key. He not only needs to make more out of his pass attempts, he needs to cut down on his interceptions.
Prediction: Seahawks 24, Vikings 17
Nobody seems to be able to stop Peterson this season so I don't expect even a strong Seattle run defense to do so, but I do think Ponder has some work to do and he's entering one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL in Week 9. I think it's ultimately going to be too much for him to handle, at least at this point in his career.