Here's what the national media are expecting from Sunday's wild-card game at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
The Seahawks enter the NFL playoffs with Sunday’s wild-card matchup against the Minnesota Vikings in Minneapolis. It’s a rematch of the teams’ Dec. 6 game, which the Seahawks won 38-7.
This time around, the media members in our survey of national predictions don’t think it’ll be quite that easy for the Seahawks, although nearly all of them predict a Seattle victory.
Kickoff at TCF Bank Stadium is 10 a.m., and NBC (Ch. 5) has the telecast. The Seahawks are favored by five points.
All four Seattle Times writers in our Seahawks Pick’em contest chose the Seahawks to win.
Here’s a national roundup of picks for the game:
Matt Calkins: Seahawks 24, Vikings 14. The Vikings got a wake-up call after the Seahawks smashed them last time, but that won’t be enough for them to beat a superior team. Seattle advances.
Bob Condotta: Seahawks 23, Vikings 6. This doesn’t figure to be as easy for the Seahawks as the 38-7 victory over the Vikings on Dec. 6. The Vikings should be healthier on defense, but it’s hard to figure them moving the ball or scoring consistently.
Jayson Jenks: Seahawks 28, Vikings 24. This one should be closer than the first time around. The Vikings want to run the ball. They want to play good defense. They have a young QB. It sounds very much like the Seahawks, which is sort of the point I’m getting at: It is hard to out-Seahawks the Seahawks, which is why Seattle wins.
Larry Stone: Seahawks 24, Vikings 17. It seems temperatures approaching zero favor a running team, and the Vikings have Adrian Peterson. On the other hand, the Seahawks held Peterson to 18 yards in their 38-7victory over Minnesota on Dec. 6. Seattle’s defense once again will be the difference.
All 10 of the experts who had picked as of Thursday afternoon chose the Seahawks.
Seven of eight pickers chose the Seahawks, the lone exception being Jared Dubin.
Pete Prisco: Seahawks 27, Vikings 23. The Seahawks blew out the Vikings in early December, but that was a banged-up Minnesota team. They played most of the game without some key defenders, including safety Harrison Smith and linebacker Anthony Barr. Russell Wilson carved them up that day, and he’s continued on a hot pace. But the Minnesota defense has the speed and the talent to be better this time. He will still make plays, just not as many. The difference will be the Seattle defense. They did a great job on Adrian Peterson in the last game, and will do so again. That will put a lot of pressure on Teddy Bridgewater. The pass rush of the Seahawks will be too much for the Vikings, and the Seattle secondary will get two takeaways to win it.
All three of the experts who had picked as of Thursday afternoon chose the Seahawks.
Elliot Harrison: Seahawks 20, Vikings 16. Seattle is looking like a real tough out right now. Tougher than Jay Buhner on a 3-0 count in the mid-’90s. (Buhner hit in the climate-controlled Kingdome, though. This sucker apparently is gonna be hovering around zero degrees.) Much of the fear factor has to do with Russell Wilson, who has been playing out of his freaking mind since mid-November. Over his last seven games, Wilson has thrown 24 touchdown passes against just one interception. And now he’ll be getting Marshawn Lynch back. Now, Lynch is coming off a sports hernia — that’s a difficult injury. That said … Beast Mode with fresh legs > almost every run D in the league.
On that note, the Vikings must work to establish the run in the first half — even if it is not working. Stay committed to getting one-on-ones outside. I’d love to see Norv Turner dial up a play action to hit a nine route down the sideline. Why not go deep early and send the Seahawks a message that their top-ranked scoring defense will have to play the whole field? At some point, Stefon Diggs or Mike Wallace must beat single coverage. If not, Kyle Rudolph had better be more involved than he was in Green Bay last week. The tight end had the same number of catches as the expected temperature Sunday.
Six of seven pickers chose the Seahawks, the lone exception being Ross Jones.
Michael David Smith: Seahawks 30, Vikings 17. With the way the Seahawks are playing lately, the Vikings may come to regret beating the Packers to win the NFC North. Russell Wilson has been the best quarterback in football over the second half of the season, and Seattle’s defense was ferocious in shutting down the Cardinals’ offense in Week 17. The Vikings, meanwhile, aren’t getting much out of their passing game, as Teddy Bridgewater threw just 14 touchdowns, by far the fewest of any quarterback who started all 16 games this season. Adrian Peterson is the league’s leading rusher, but I think the Seahawks’ front can hold him in check and the Seahawks’ secondary can shut down the Vikings’ receivers. This game won’t be close.
Mike Florio: Seahawks 30, Vikings 14. The Seahawks destroyed the Vikings when the two teams last got together, with a 38-7 trouncing. But for a late-game kickoff return (featuring 50 yards of high stepping from Cordarrelle Patterson), it would have been a shutout. So why would it be any different now? Intensely cold weather could flatten out the talent gap. So maybe the Seahawks only win by 16 this time.
David Steele: Seahawks 34, Vikings 20. Their meeting last month, also in Minneapolis, was a Seahawks trouncing, 38-7, with Russell Wilson throwing for three touchdowns and rushing for another. The Vikings defense handled Aaron Rodgers in the NFC North showdown last week, and while the Packers don’t have the weapons the Seahawks do, the Seahawks’ pass protection is still vulnerable enough for the Vikings pass rush to unload on Wilson. On the other hand, Marshawn Lynch fitting back in after eight weeks will be a challenge, but not a problem. As strange as it is to think the Seahawks defense could ever be overshadowed, Wilson’s exploits have done it. That defense will be back in the spotlight trying to hold Adrian Peterson in check. Don’t doubt that it can; it totally negated him last time.
Jon Benne: All seven pickers chose the Seahawks. Sunday’s early game is a regular season rematch between the Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings won their first division title since 2009, finally breaking the Green Bay Packers’ long reign. The Seahawks had a rough 2-4 start to the year but dominated down the stretch and are expected to get Marshawn Lynch back this week. When these teams met in Week 13, Seattle ran Minnesota off the field, 38-7. The Seahawks are a unanimous pick to get their second win over the Vikings this year.
All eight pickers chose the Seahawks.
Gary Davenport: When is a win a loss? There are those who would tell you that very thing happened last Sunday night. Yes, in defeating the Packers 20-13, the Vikings earned the NFC North title and the right to host a playoff game. However, their reward for doing so is a matchup with a soaring Seahawks team that capped its second-half surge with a blowout win over the Arizona Cardinals in Week 17. The same Seahawks that pasted the Vikings 38-7 in Week 13. In Minnesota. According to Brian Billick of NFL.com, if Pittsburgh is the team no one wants to play in this year’s tournament, Seattle is the opponent people want to face even less:
“Russell Wilson is in the middle of a seven-game stretch like no other QB hot streak we’ve seen in NFL history. Only Steve Young has enjoyed a comparable run — in 1994 — and even that doesn’t truly compare to Wilson’s 24 touchdown passes against just one interception in those seven games. (And it should be noted that Young had Jerry Rice, while Wilson has Doug Baldwin — not exactly the same.) … But just because the team turned over the reins to Wilson, it doesn’t mean that the defense rode off into the sunset. The unit still led the NFL in scoring defense — for the fourth straight season — giving up just 17.3 points per game. And the defense has been even better than that in the past five games, yielding just 11 points per game — with two of those five contests coming against playoff teams in which they didn’t allow double-digit points. Sometimes it’s all about timing. Just like the Giants in 2012 and the Packers in 2011, the Seahawks are firing on all cylinders at the perfect time.”
However, despite getting throttled by the Seahawks last month, veteran Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway told Tom Pelissero of USA Today that a blueprint exists for sending the two-time reigning conference champions packing:
“Apparently, we just need to watch St. Louis play them and do what they do. … It’s just so huge the way (the Rams) go and push the tempo onto them. You control the tempo. It’s hard to do against a team like (the Seahawks), because they’re physical. But I think we’re capable of doing it. We’ve just got to go show it on the field. … Obviously, they’re a great team. They have great experience, they’ve done it now two years in a row, and they’re not going to be scared of anybody.”
So what will it be? Can the Vikings take a page from the St. Louis Rams’ playbook and ensure a new NFC representative in Super Bowl 50? Or is it a sixth-seed sweep in the Wild Card Round? Yes. … Mind you, it isn’t fair to say the Vikings have no chance. This is, after all, an 11-win Vikings team that possesses the sort of pass rush that could find success against the Seahawks, who allowed the sixth-most sacks (46) in the NFL this year. Then there’s NFL rushing king Adrian Peterson, who told Pelissero that the Vikings have learned from their Seattle shellacking:
“We were able to look at that film and see all of the things that we did terribly. So, going into this week, we know that, hey, it’s either we’re going to take care of business or we’re going to be sitting at home watching the rest of the playoffs.”
The problem is that the Vikings offense relies heavily on Peterson and the ground game. And in their meeting December 6, the Seahawks’ NFL-best run defense held Peterson to 18 yards on only eight carries. In fact, the entire Minnesota offense posted only 125 net yards in that game. The team’s only score on the afternoon was a kick return. The Seahawks had more than three times as many yards and almost three times as many first downs.
Not to mention, as Rolling Stone‘s Kenneth Arthur reported, the Seahawks have the NFL’s hottest quarterback in Wilson and are getting healthy at the right time:
“Wilson broke single-season franchise records for touchdown passes (34) and passing yards (4,024), while becoming the first player in NFL history with 4,000 yards, 30 passing touchdowns and 500 rushing yards in the same season. He finishes the year third in completion percentage, fourth in Y/A and first in passer rating at 110.1. None of this will knock Cam Newton off of his 15-1 perch for the MVP award, but that shouldn’t distract everyone from noticing that there is not a tier of quarterbacks above Wilson.”
He belongs with the best of the best, and he proved that against arguably the best team in football in his fourth regular season finale. Best of all, Seattle looks to be as healthy as they’ve been in weeks; [Marshawn] Lynch is expected to rejoin the team on Monday, while [Pete] Carroll all but guaranteed that three other starters should be able to come back for the Vikings game. The only question mark is [Kam] Chancellor, but even without their Pro Bowl safety, the defense has looked as stout as ever. The Vikings are an ascending young team under head coach Mike Zimmer. But this is just a bad matchup for them.