It's show-and-tell time in the NFC when the Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings get together in Sunday's NFC Wild Card Round.
The visiting Seahawks are out to prove a 6-1 start to close the season wasn't a fluke, nor is the MVP-esque play from quarterback Russell Wilson while backed by an elite defense.
For the Vikings, Sunday's all about proving they belong. Going against the team that beat them 38-7 a few weeks back isn't much of a reward for seizing the NFC North crown, but redemption awaits if the young team can take the proverbial next step on a prime-time stage.
Below, let's take a look at everything to know about the heavyweight bout.
When: Sunday, January 10, at 1:05 p.m. ET
Where: TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis
Spread: Seattle (-5)
Team Injury Reports
|Kam Chancellor, S||Probable|
|Luke Willson, TE||Questionable|
|Tyler Lockett, WR||Questionable|
|Marshawn Lynch, RB||Probable|
|Adrian Peterson, RB||Questionable|
Injury reports courtesy of ESPN.com.
This shouldn't come as a surprise, but it's all about the defense for the visiting Seahawks.
The attention, though, goes to Wilson, which also isn't much of a surprise. He's tossed 34 touchdowns to eight interceptions this year, with 24 of those scores and just one interception coming over the 6-1 stretch.
Seattle visited Minnesota during that stretch like it will Sunday. That was in Week 13, when Wilson tossed a trio of scores and ran for another and Thomas Rawls added one of his own while the defense forced an interception and held star running back Adrian Peterson to 18 yards on eight carries—par for the course for a defense leading the NFL at just 17.3 points allowed per game.
"We got up on them because the defense was really keeping us in position to do that," Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said, according to ESPN.com. "The defense allowed us to kind of regain our stride and play some good football and it took off a little bit."
Maybe the biggest difference this time out? The Seahawks might swap out the injured Rawls with one Marshawn Lynch based on a note by Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times:
Seattle OC Darrell Bevell says there's no reason Marshawn Lynch can't have 20-25 carries Sunday. Says if he's playing, he's going.— Bob Condotta (@bcondotta) January 6, 2016
Seattle will have to hope its defense can pull off the road magic again and Lynch can have a large impact, though, because since the drubbing in Week 13, Minnesota has looked elite in every phase of the game while storming to a divisional crown.
As some might put it, Sunday looks like a hurdle a championship team would leap without stopping. That's the task in front of the Seahawks.
Just a Step
What a reward, right?
Minnesota bounced back from the loss to Seattle—what now looks like a wake-up call—to lose by just three points in Arizona against the Cardinals on a short turnaround to a Thursday game.
Not bad, but even better was what followed—beating the Chicago Bears 38-17, the New York Giants 49-17 and the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field 20-13 while keeping quarterback Aaron Rodgers in check to win the division.
For head coach Mike Zimmer, he doesn't want the division title to be the stopping point, as the team captured on Twitter:
If the Vikings keep playing like this, the accomplishment will be a blip on the radar for them.
Over the three-game streak the defense has forced seven turnovers and 14 sacks. The blueprint for winning received a reinforcement too, as the Vikings now sit at 10-0 this year when rushing for more than 113 yards.
In other words, the Vikings will have to beat the Seahawks at their own game. It didn't work the first time out because Seattle jumped out to a lead so early, so expect to see plenty of Peterson this time out.
The Vikings won't be able to take the step without a positive game from quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, though, who crumpled under the pressure in the first game with a 17-of-28 mark for 118 yards and an interception. He's completed 65.3 percent of his passes this year and over the three-game streak tossed five scores to one pick, so Zimmer has to trust the momentum gained will translate in the rematch.
Which team will win?
These aren't the same old Vikings.
Zimmer's a big part of the reason. His defense allows just 18.9 points per game, and adjustments play a big part in the team's success—such as taking a home 30-13 loss to Green Bay in Week 11, only to turn around in Week 17 and hit the road for a 20-13 upset.
Seattle's a dangerous team, especially with Lynch possibly back in the fold. But on the road in the freezing cold, Wilson might find himself grounded against a strong defense and unable to jump out to a 21-0 advantage by halftime like in the first encounter.
Riding on the back of Peterson, look for the Vikings to make the necessary adjustments and explode up the steps and into the next round of the postseason.
Prediction: Vikings 24, Seahawks 21