Countdown to kickoff: Seahawks vs Vikings

Posted Nov 17, 2013

The Seahawks return to CenturyLink Field, and several players are expected to return to the lineup, as they host the Minnesota Vikings looking to improve on their best-in-the-NFC 9-1 record.

Greetings from CenturyLink Field, where the 9-1 Seahawks will host the 2-7 Minnesota Vikings on this made-for-football Sunday afternoon in what should be one big welcome-back party for several on-the-mend players.

We already know that All-Pro center Max Unger and defensive captain and run-stuffing end Red Bryant will be back after missing last week’s game against the Falcons in Atlanta because of the concussions they got the last time they played at CenturyLink Field – the Week 9 overtime win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

That’s big – squared – because Bryant will be needed as the Seahawks’ No. 3-ranked defense tries to contain Adrian Peterson, who ran for 182 yards in the Vikings’ 30-20 loss here last Nov. 4; and Unger’s return will help control Kevin Williams, who slid from the three-technique tackle spot to nose tackle last week and produced 2.5 sacks in the Vikings’ 34-27 victory over the Washington Redskins.

We can surmise that Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung and right tackle Breno Giacomini will return, because Okung was added to the 53-man roster Saturday and both practiced with the No. 1 line all week. Okung has not played since injuring a toe in Week 2, Giacomini since injuring a knee in Week 3. But Friday, when coach Pete Carroll said that Bryant and Unger definitely will be back, he also said the status of Okung and Giacomini would be game-day decisions.

In their absence, the line had problems protecting second-year quarterback Russell Wilson, who lost two fumbles while being sacked in the Week 7 win at Arizona, was sacked a career-high seven times the following week against the Rams in St. Louis and took some after-the-pass hits the next week against the Buccaneers that left him sore. Despite the absence of Okung and Giacomini, the running game ranks No. 2 in the league by averaging 153.4 yards and Marshawn Lynch is the second-leading rusher in the NFL with 871 yards.

But how effective can they be after their long layoffs, and for how long? Line coach Tom Cable said he’s ready to mix and match along the front to help Okung and Giacomini – and the offense – get through the game.

The return that tops the charts, however, is Percy Harvin. As with Okung and Giacomini, Carroll said this will be a game-day decision. But if Harvin made it through an extensive stint in Friday’s practice and Saturday’s walkthrough without any issues, he will make his Seahawks debut. Harvin, who was acquired in a March trade with the Vikings, has not played since that Week 9 game against the Seahawks here last November. He got a season-ending foot injury that day, and then had hip surgery Aug. 1.

Again, if he plays, how much does he play? Factoring into those decisions is the way Harvin plays. He’s most effective in the passing game operating in the slot, where he’ll be open to instant contact. He’s most dangerous lining up in the backfield and carrying the ball up the gut, where he’ll be open to constant contact. He’s most explosive returning kickoffs, where he’ll be open to collisions.

But that’s where the Seahawks find themselves on this autumn afternoon – holding the best record in the NFC and a 2½-game lead in the NFC West over the San Francisco 49ers, and getting back a handful for impact players.

This also is an afternoon for scoreboard watching as the 7-2 New Orleans Saints, with the second-best record in the NFC, host the 49ers (6-3), who have the second-best record in the NFC West. And those also are the teams the Seahawks will face when they return from their Nov. 24 bye – the Saints in a “Monday Night Football” matchup on Dec. 2; the 49ers in what will be the Seahawks’ final game at Candlestick Park on Dec. 8.

All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman was asked the other day which future opponent he’d like to see lose Sunday.

“That’s a good question. Could they both lose?” he asked with a laugh. “I wish they both could lose. To tell you the truth, I think it’s a win-win for us either way. We’ve got to win out. We’ve got to do what we’ve got to do the rest of the season to make our dreams come true anyway. So in that situation whichever team wins it’s good for us. One of them has to lose. So if we handle our business the rest of the season we’ll be in a good spot.”

The first step in handling their business the rest of the season comes against the Vikings, in a game that should feature the return of several on-the-mend players.

So sit back and enjoy, with kickoff and televised coverage on FOX (Q/13 in Seattle) set for 1:25 p.m. PT