Minnesota is 6-5-1 this season, but has yet to defeat an opponent with a winning record. The Seahawks are 7-5.
The Seahawks need a win. The Vikings need a win.
An NFC wild-card berth hangs firmly in the balance.
Here are five things to know about the surging Seahawks’ next opponent, the Minnesota Vikings.
1. Minnesota has yet to beat an opponent with a winning record.
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The Vikings are 6-5-1 this season, and those six victories have come against teams with a combined record of 21-49-1. Their five losses have come to teams with a combined record of 42-18. They’re also 2-3-1 on the road, with the victories coming against the 6-6 Eagles and the 3-9 Jets.
It appears, then, that the Vikings have beaten the teams they were supposed to beat, and lost to everybody else.
That’s not how you separate yourself from the pack in the NFC.
2. The Vikings have one of the best 1-2 punches at wide receiver in the NFL.
Adam Thielen is Kirk Cousins’ undisputed No. 1 option, considering he leads Minnesota in targets (134), catches (98), receiving yards (1,166), catches of 20 yards or more (15) and touchdown catches (9).
But don’t forget about Stephon Diggs, who has 84 catches for 839 yards and six scores.
The Seahawks’ secondary won’t forget about either player, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be able to slow them down. In their last four games, the Seahawks have allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 70.7 percent of their passes and throw for an average of 330 yards per game, with eight touchdowns and two interceptions.
It’s true, guys like Jared Goff, Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton are bound to skew the numbers somewhat.
But consider that last week, an undrafted rookie quarterback named Nick Mullens threw for a whopping 414 yards in a game at Seattle, with a largely anonymous supporting cast.
Thielen and Diggs are far from anonymous. They’ll look to introduce themselves properly on Monday night.
3. Minnesota rarely bothers to establish the run.
What’s the point of having Latavius Murray and Dalvin Cook if you don’t want to use them? Through 12 games, the Vikings rank 29th in the NFL in rushing attempts per game (21.1), 30th in rushing yards (1,033), 24th in yards per carry (4.1) and 27th in rushing touchdowns (6).
Meanwhile, the inconsistent Seahawks defense is tied for last in opponent yards per carry (5.1). But it looks like that potential weakness might not be exposed Monday.
4. A pair of former Seahawks are contributing on the Vikings’ defensive line.
Remember Sheldon Richardson and Tom Johnson?
It would be understandable if you didn’t. After all, Richardson played one season in Seattle, and Johnson played all of one game for the Seahawks in 2018 before he was released and he opted to rejoin the Vikings.
Both defensive tackles will return to Seattle on Monday night.
The 28-year-old Richardson is the more productive of the two, having produced 41 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 12 games. Johnson has added 19 tackles and 3.5 sacks in a more limited role.
On Monday, they both will be tasked with slowing the premier rushing offense in the NFL.
Oh, and speaking of that …
5. Minnesota stops the run.
The Vikings rank seventh in the NFL in rushing defense (99.2 yards per game and second in both opponent yards per carry (3.7) and opponent rushes of 20 yards or more (3).
They didn’t look quite as stout last weekend, however, when the Patriots ripped off 160 rushing yards, 4.1 yards per carry and two rushing touchdowns.
So which version of the Vikings will we see on Monday?
Minnesota will need to return to form to counter a Seahawks rushing attack that leads the league in rushing yards per game (148.8) and attempts per game (31.7), seventh in yards per carry (4.7) and ninth in rushes of 20 yards or more (11).
The Seahawks won’t be presenting many surprises. Either the Vikings can stop them, or they can’t.