Key Matchups

Xavier Rhodes vs. Tyler Lockett

A preview of this game in June would have likely placed Rhodes head-to-head with Doug Baldwin rather than Lockett. But as it turns out, Baldwin has had an up and down year, partially due to injuries. At the same time, Lockett has thrived as Russell Wilson‘s new favorite target. Per Pro Football Focus, Wilson has a perfect passer rating this year when throwing to Lockett. Rhodes has the distinct size advantage in this matchup. That said, Lockett has proven to be a home run hitter, even against upper-echelon corners.

Danielle Hunter vs. Germain Ifedi

Seattle’s line as a whole is much improved, but they are still held back somewhat by their right tackle. Ifedi is tied for the league lead in false start penalties with six, while also occasionally being a turnstile as a pass blocker. That sets up nicely for Hunter, who is still among the league sack leaders despite going without one since week nine. It is the perfect matchup to get Hunter back on track. Of course, as always, the struggle will not only be getting to Wilson, but bringing him down.

Eric Kendricks vs. Chris Carson

The matchup of the Seahawks’ run game against the Vikings’ run defense is going to on the whole be a key to this game. But Kendricks and Carson are the two featuring players in it. Kendricks is coming off one of his best games of the season, in which he recorded a season-high 16 tackles. His pass coverage has also improved in recent weeks after a rocky start.

The Seattle run game is suddenly, against all odds, one of the NFL’s best after years of sub-par offensive line play. They currently lead the league in both yards and attempts per game. All three of their backs are averaging at least 4.4 yards per carry. Carson is the lead dog, currently on pace for over 1,000 yards. How each team controls the line of scrimmage is going to play a major role in determining how productive Seattle’s offense will be.

Kirk Cousins vs. Pete Carroll/Ken Norton Jr.

The Vikings’ anemic offense of a week ago put a big spotlight on John DeFilippo, and rightly so. He was out-schemed and out-performed by a legendary coach. As a result, the passing game never got off the ground. That said, Cousins deserves a fair share of criticism for the way he failed to make quality pre-snap reads. Bill Belichick fooled him play after play by disguising his pressures and coverages. That cannot be the case Monday night if Cousins hopes to find consistent success through the air.

The Seahawks defense is not the stout unit it once was, but Carroll and Norton have been around the block as defensive schemers. They are going to force Cousins to make quality decisions before the snap. Cousins has to prove he can be up to the task. 

Predictions

Madison Parkhill: Minnesota 24, Seattle 20

In week 14, the Vikings travel to Seattle for the most important game of the season. Both teams are slated as playoff teams for now, but the winner will have a huge advantage going forward. For the Vikings, a win could put them back in the hunt for a division title with the Bears playing the Rams this weekend. The Vikings have struggled against the Seahawks recently, but they clearly have the more talented team. However, Seattle does have the advantage of playing at home and the superior quarterback. The Vikings should be able to score on a decent Seahawks defense, but slowing Russell Wilson will be the key to the game. If the Vikings can shut down the Seahawks rushing attack and keep Wilson in the pocket, they should win the game. Expect a back and forth game, but I like the Vikings to prevail.

– Madison Parkhill writes for Full Press Coverage and covers the Vikings. Follow him @MadPark44.

Roger Dier: Seattle 31, Minnesota 14

Here we go again: Another nationally televised game in which the Vikings need to beat a playoff opponent on the road. Seattle is going to win this game, and the primary reason is the Seahawks have a better quarterback. Much better. 

Hold that thought for a moment. I once wrote a story for “USA Hockey Magazine” on the subject of goal scoring. The coaching guru that I interviewed told me something that was so obvious that I missed it. Paraphrasing, he said that a hockey player who was not a goal scorer in youth or high school hockey is not suddenly going to turn into a scoring machine should s/he have the talent to compete in juniors or college hockey.

 
Though the Vikings are paying Kirk Cousins $28 million per year, he’s not going to be anything different than what he was in college or as a pro in Washington. Namely, an average quarterback. 

Average what Cousins is and always will be. Yes, at times he’s shown to be capable playing better than average. But, as we saw three games ago in Chicago and last Sunday afternoon in New England, he also plays below average, way below. 

Cousins doesn’t take care of the ball (15 turnovers in 12 games), can neither sense nor react to pocket pressure, and seldom processes beyond the first or second reads. His two primary receivers, Adam Theilen and Stephon Diggs, have begun to throw up their hands in exasperation after Cousins fails to find their wide-open status. 

Russell Wilson, meanwhile, is the exact opposite of Cousins. Better athlete, senses pressure before it materializes, better arm, and is the best improvising quarterback in the league. Given what Wilson has around him, he is the best quarterback in the league. Like Brett Favre, Wilson always gives his team a chance to win. Wilson, it could be said, is a football player who happens to play quarterback. Cousins is a thrower who has to do it playing tackle football. 

I give the inconsistent Vikings a 15 percent chance to win on Monday night. The Seahawks have won three straight. By 11 p.m. CST on Monday, after beating Minnesota 31-14, the Seahawks’ record will be 8-5. The Vikings will fly home in the long night as a 6-6-1 team. 

When their charter touches down in the Twin Cities, the Vikings will be the same team they were when they left for Seattle: An average team with an average quarterback.
– Roger Dier writes for Full Press Coverage and covers the Vikings. Follow him @rogerdier.

Clayton Brooks: Minnesota 24, Seattle 21

The Minnesota Vikings are very fortunate to still be clinging to a playoff spot after last week’s disappointing loss to New England. Unfortunately, the schedule does not let up this week as they go to Seattle to take on the one team who did take advantage of that loss, the Seahawks.

The Vikings’ rush defense will be challenged by the league’s top ground game. Seattle’s defense isn’t the vaunted “Legion of Boom” from the past, but they can still be formidable and can’t be overlooked. Add Russell Wilson’s playmaking ability at the quarterback position, and this has the makings of another potential long day for the purple and gold. Despite serious reservations, I’m going to take the more desperate Minnesota Vikings in this one to keep themselves in a playoff spot.

– Clayton Brooks writes for Full Press Coverage and covers the Vikings. Follow him @ClaytonRBrooks2.

Sam Smith: Minnesota 24, Seattle 23

My gut all along has strongly leaned the Seahawks’ way. For the duration of the build to this game, I was certain I was going to pick Seattle to win, and comfortably. But as I analyze the personnel, the tendencies and the coaching, more elements point me to Minnesota. That is, of course, with the one big exception, that being Seattle’s All-World quarterback. 

That very well could (and probably should) be enough to push Seattle over the top at home. But Seattle has played few secondaries as talented as the Vikings’, and whenever they have, their offense has struggled. Their running game is one of their strongest assets, yet the Vikings have one of the top run defenses in the league (second, according to PFF). On the other side of the ball, Cousins’ performance is largely dependent on the opposing pass rush and secondary, two areas where Seattle is middle-of-the-road. I think the Vikings offense, given a long week to adjust, has enough firepower to sneak away with a narrow win.

–Sam Smith is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Vikings and Deputy Editor for Full Press NFL. Like and Follow @samc_smith.

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