After a 17-week-long roller coaster ride, the Seahawks will play the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday in the Wild Card Round, giving the Seattle Seahawks their fourth straight trip to the playoffs.
Early in the season, the Seahawk’s chances of making the playoffs were grim, as the Arizona Cardinals took an early hold of the division and the Seahawks were relegated to fighting for a Wild Card berth. The playoffs looked like a pipe dream for many, but the players and coaches continued believing.
The results of the Seahawk’s regular season games are an accurate representation of what happened off the field as well.
The first off-field incident was when safety Kam Chancellor held out from his contract because he wanted a more money. Chancellor sat out two games and the defense was not the same. He eventually made the right decision and returned to the Seahawks, which did improve the defense.
During all of this, running back Marshawn Lynch went down with an abdominal injury. Then superstar tight end Jimmy Graham went down for the season with a knee injury.
The black cloud above the Seahawks grew as the offensive line continued to struggle. They looked like swiss cheese, allowing quarterback Russell Wilson to get hit every other play. The going was tough for the Seahawks and their fans, but slowly the cloud diminished above their heads.
After splitting their first eight games 4-4, the Seahawks had a beneficial bye week. They lost to the division leading Cardinals 39-32 in the first week back, but then won six of their next seven games, including a trouncing of the Cardinals in the regular season finale last Sunday. The team seemed to finally make some progress and the offensive line started to mesh to help Wilson and wide receiver Doug Baldwin shatter records. The Seahawks finished 10-6 and clinched a playoff berth along the way.
Now come the Minnesota Vikings, a ground and pound type of team. The Vikings gameplan starts with their running back, Adrian Peterson, who is considered by many as one of the best in the league.
Peterson is the bread and butter for the Viking’s, and as odd as it is sounds, he also contributes to the defense by keeping them off the field for as long as possible. Peterson will also try to lull the Seahawk’s defense to sleep and then take a shot downfield with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to their deep threat wide receiver Stefon Diggs or tight end Kyle Rudolph.
The Seahawks did crush the Vikings in week 13 at Minnesota, 38-7, but that Vikings team was missing their top three defensive players in safety Harrison Smith, linebacker Anthony Barr and defensive lineman Linval Joseph. All three players are supposed to play on Sunday and that will make things more difficult for the Seahawks.
Barr is a disruptive force that is very versatile. He can rush the passer, and offensive tackles Russell Okung and Garry Gilliam will have to give Wilson enough time to execute. Barr is also exceptional at dropping into coverage, so he will be a key to the Viking’s defense against Wilson and his receivers.
What might make Barr less effective is the presence of Lynch returning to the Seahawk’s backfield. Lynch will keep the Viking’s defense honest, but so will backup RB Christine Michael, who should receive some serious carries.
This will be a hard-fought game as both teams are prepared for a physical battle in freezing weather in Minnesota. Both Lynch and Michael, and Peterson from the Vikings should control the pace of the game.
The key to this game will be Wilson and his ability to throw the ball in the freezing weather. He will be needed to stretch the field vertically and add a balance to the Seahawks offense.
It would be unusual to see the Seahawks obliterate the Vikings again, and it probably won’t happen, but with how well the Seahawks are playing (excluding the Rams game) as of late they should pull out a rugged victory to take one step further towards the Super Bowl.