Seattle Seahawks vs. Minnesota Vikings: Full Seattle Game Preview
They'll need to have a similar performance this week on the road against the Minnesota Vikings.
This Sunday's game is technically more important than the contest against the Steelers—depending on how the NFC North is won, Seattle could be competing with the Vikings for a playoff spot at the end of the season.
A win against the Vikings would mean that the Seahawks would get into the postseason tournament over Minnesota in the case of a tied record. It's a crucial advantage to have entering the final stretch of the regular season.
Seattle has good recent history against the Vikings, winning the last two contests by at least 10 points. The Seahawks also have the edge in the all-time series between these two teams, leading it 8-5.
The Vikings are much better than they have previously been, however, with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater playing efficient—and winning—football.
There's also that one running back who wears purple named Adrian Peterson, in case you haven't heard of him.
These teams have similar philosophies in terms of how they like to run the ball and play stout defense. Minnesota currently leads the NFL in rushing yards per game with 146.4, while Seattle's 144.2 comes in at a close second.
For the second straight week, the Seahawks play in what should be one of the weekend's best games.
Continue reading to find out what to watch for.
Location: TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minn.
Time: 1 p.m. EST (10 a.m. local)
TV: Channel 13 (Fox)
Week 12 Recap
Last week, the Seattle Seahawks emerged victorious against the Pittsburgh Steelers in what turned out to be a quarterback showdown.
Russell Wilson and Seattle's offense had answers all day for the Steelers, as Wilson threw for 345 yards and five touchdown passes in a career performance on his birthday.
Wide receiver Doug Baldwin exploded for six catches, 145 yards and three touchdowns on the day, including a fourth-quarter, 80-yard catch-and-run for a score that essentially sealed Seattle's victory.
Despite allowing a franchise-record 456 passing yards to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the Seahawks defense forced four interceptions and came up big late in the game. The victory was truly a team win.
Seattle now sits firmly in second place in the NFC West and in control of the NFC's sixth wild-card spot after beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 12.
News and Notes
Russell Wilson named Week 12's NFC Offensive Player of the Week
Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times reported that Wilson has been given the honor of being the NFC's Offensive Player of the Week for last weekend's career performance against the Steelers.
Throwing five touchdowns and zero picks certainly builds a worthy case for the award.
While Wilson deserves the award (take it for what you will), it's far more imperative that Wilson's current hot streak continues throughout the rest of the season.
It's especially important this week against the Vikings. Minnesota has allowed 223.5 passing yards per game in 2015, and its stout secondary has picked off eight passes from opposing quarterbacks.
Against the Steelers, Wilson played smart football. He'll have to do the same on Sunday against a far better Vikings pass defense.
Strength of schedule looking good for Seattle
The Vikings are one of only two teams left on the Seahawks schedule with a winning record (the other is the Arizona Cardinals). The rest of Seattle's schedule bodes well for the Seahawks' playoff chances.
Again, though, this note factors into the importance of winning against the Vikings this week. With the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns following Week 13's contest against the Vikings, the Seahawks have a fine opportunity going forward to further cement their status in the 2015 playoff picture.
But they have to get through the Vikings first, which won't be easy on the road. Minnesota needs a win on Sunday just as badly as Seattle does to keep its playoff hopes firmly alive.
No NFL team should ever be taken for granted—anything can happen on any given Sunday, right?
That being said, the Seahawks should theoretically cruise by the Ravens and Browns, especially if they convincingly beat Minnesota. This Sunday marks the last chance of the season for Seattle to gain a tiebreaker advantage over an NFC opponent outside of the NFC West.
The crucial nature of this weekend's matchup cannot be overstated.
Latest Injury News
Jimmy Graham to injured reserve
The Seattle Seahawks' biggest offseason free-agent acquisition, tight end Jimmy Graham, has been placed on the injured reserve list after suffering a season-ending knee injury in the fourth quarter of last week's win.
Head coach Pete Carroll fully expects Graham to be ready for next season.
"I don't know about the dates of that," Carroll said in an article posted to Seahawks.com on Monday. "But there's plenty of time for him to get back."
In his place, the Seahawks will look to utilize tight end Luke Willson. This shouldn't be overly alarming for the 12th Man.
Willson is averaging 12.7 yards per reception this season in only three starts through 11 games. Now that he will likely start each game for the rest of the season, his production should only go up.
The fact that Willson already knows the Seahawks offense will pay huge dividends in the regular season's most important stretch. Don't forget that Willson was an under-the-radar offensive piece in the Seahawks' recent Super Bowl runs.
This week's game against the Vikings presents Willson with a great opportunity to make an impact against a Minnesota defense that likes to take away the deep ball from opposing offenses.
Will Tukuafu progressing through concussion protocol
Coach Carroll said in a recent 710 ESPN Seattle article by Brady Henderson that fullback Will Tukuafu has had "good results" from concussion testing after suffering the injury in the win against the Steelers.
"They're (Tukuafu and defensive tackle Demarcus Dobbs) not ruled out yet, so we'll see how that goes," Carroll said in the same piece. Dobbs also left last week's win with a concussion.
Getting Tukuafu back this week would undoubtedly be good for the Seahawks running game. Even though running back Thomas Rawls' stats from a week ago weren't too special (81 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries), the Seahawks converted multiple third downs with their ground attack.
The Vikings give up more than 110 rushing yards per game—having Tukuafu lead the charge for Rawls can't hurt the chances of exploiting that number.
Seattle wide receivers vs. Minnesota defensive backs
After helping Russell Wilson have a career day throwing the football a week ago, it's imperative that Seattle's wide receivers have another big game on Sunday against a good Vikings secondary.
Vikings cornerback Terence Newman is having a great year in his 13th NFL season. In two of his last three games, Newman has intercepted at least one pass. He'll be looking to add to his total against the Seahawks.
Newman may have a hard time doing so, however, against Seattle's quick, underneath passing scheme. The Seahawks will try to create mismatches to cash in on opportunities like this one, where Doug Baldwin uses his after-the-catch ability to take a short pass to the house.
The Vikings don't allow many big pass plays—Minnesota has only allowed five passing plays of 40 or more yards this season—so expect Seattle to get the ball out quickly to its arsenal of speedy playmakers.
Seattle front seven vs. Adrian Peterson
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is playing good football, but it's still no secret that the Vikings' fate rests largely on the production of running back Adrian Peterson.
That's why it's so important for the Seahawks to contain him on Sunday.
We'll keep this short and simple—in two of the Vikings' three losses, Minnesota was held to less than 100 yards rushing. In seven of the team's eight wins, the Vikings posted at least 140 rushing yards.
Stopping Peterson almost always correlates directly to beating the Vikings. It's a simple formula, but it's not an easy one to execute.
Side note: The Seahawks absolutely must shore up their tackling from a week ago if they hope to contain Peterson and the Vikings. There were many times in the game against the Steelers when Pittsburgh playmakers gained excess yardage simply due to poor tackling.
Peterson and the Vikings will make the Seahawks pay for such elementary mistakes. Seattle must tackle soundly on Sunday if it wants to win this game.
Matchup X-Factor: Luke Willson
Because the Vikings defense plays so well against opposing wideouts, tight end Luke Willson becomes the Seahawks' Week 13 X-factor.
There's no guarantee that Seattle's receivers will explode like they did against the Steelers in this week's contest. Sunday's game against the Vikings should be considerably more gritty than last week's, which should provide plenty of opportunities for Luke Willson to be a safety-blanket target for Russell Wilson throughout the game.
Look for the Seahawks to work in a few creative plays involving Willson in third-down situations. Seattle's offense has a number of other, more explosive playmakers whom Minnesota will turn its focus to, so Willson and the Seahawks must capitalize on open opportunities.
The Seahawks' third-year tight end has shown plenty of potential in the past. Now, with the team's tight end position essentially all to himself for the rest of the season, Willson must take complete advantage of his newfound opportunity.
Being a clutch performer in this week's pivotal NFC matchup would be a good start.
Prediction: Seattle Seahawks 24, Minnesota Vikings 20
The Vikings are a tough team with postseason aspirations. They are a worthy opponent for the Seahawks.
But a lack of quick-strike ability on offense will land Minnesota in trouble against the visiting Seahawks, and Seattle will emerge victorious for the third straight week.
For the second time in three weeks, Seattle will get clutch performances from its youthful playmakers.
Running back Thomas Rawls will quietly and efficiently carve up a Vikings run defense that gives up more than 110 rushing yards per game, while wideout Tyler Lockett catches a touchdown pass late in the contest.
Adrian Peterson has an effective day running the ball, but the Seahawks defense tightens up when it needs to, meaning the Vikings will rely on Bridgewater's arm to win the game.
A rejuvenated Legion of Boom will take advantage of the young quarterback and seal Seattle's victory with a late pass breakup or interception.
Look for the Seahawks to get a statement win against a quality opponent for the second straight week—only this time, it'll be on the road.
Ethan is a Seattle Seahawks Game Day Correspondent for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @ebai_today for Seahawks coverage and musings about the NFL.