Five matchups to watch: Seahawks vs. Vikings

Posted Nov 16, 2013

Off to the best start in franchise history, and with the best record in the NFC at 9-1, the Seahawks return home to host the Minnesota Vikings at CenturyLink Field on Sunday.

A look at the Seahawks’ Week 11 game against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, including five matchups that could impact the outcome:

When: Sunday, 1:25 p.m., CenturyLink Field

Records: Seahawks 9-1 and first in the NFC West after Sunday’s 33-10 victory over the Falcons in Atlanta; Vikings 2-7 and last in the NFC North after their 34-27 victory over the Washington Redskins on Nov. 7

TV: FOX (Q13 in Seattle), with Chris Myers, Tim Ryan and Jennifer Hale

Radio: 710 ESPN and 97.3 KIRO FM, with Steve Raible, Warren Moon and Jen Mueller

Rest of the West: 49ers (6-3) at Saints; Cardinals (5-4) at Jaguars; Rams (4-6) have their bye

Matchup microscope

Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch vs. Vikings RB Adrian Peterson: This won’t be a one-on-one matchup, of course, but the back who emerges with the most carries and yards likely helps his team win the matchup – even though that wasn’t the case in Week 9 last season, when Peterson went for 182 yards and Lynch had 124. But the best thing about each offense continues to be the unrelenting efforts of their leading rushers. Lynch is second in the NFL is rushing yards (871); Peterson fourth (786). Peterson is first in the league in rushing touchdowns (nine); Lynch is tied for third (seven). Lynch is third in the NFL in total yards (1,084); Peterson seventh (949). Lynch is third in the NFL in first downs (55); Peterson eighth (45). You get the picture. The team that is allowed to pound away with its franchise back should have the inside track to a victory. And as Seahawks coach Pete Carroll put it, “This is a fantastic game for somebody to watch running backs and to compare the two.”

One to watch

The Seahawks’ coverage units vs. the Vikings’ Cordarrelle Patterson and Marcus Sherels: The Seahawks have allowed 15 return yards on Jon Ryan’s 39 punts, while Sherels leads the NFL with a 16.3-yard punt return average, including an 86-yarder for a touchdown. Patterson leads the NFL with a 35.2-yard kickoff return average, including scoring returns of 109 and 105 yards. But the longest return the Seahawks have allowed is a 40-yarder. Obviously, something has to give here. So keep an eye on Jeremy Lane and Byron Maxwell, the gunners on the punt return unit; and Heath Farwell and Chris Maragos, the leading tacklers on the kickoff coverage unit. Stopping Sherels and Patterson will start with them.

Fun to watch

Seahawks WR Percy Harvin vs. his former team: Harvin’s last game was in Week 9 last season, when he was playing for the Vikings against the Seahawks. After being traded to the Seahawks in March and having hip surgery Aug. 1, Harvin likely will make his return as his new team is hosting his old team – although the final decision won’t be made until game day, Carroll said. Cue the theme from the old “Twilight Zone” series. Harvin would have been pumped to return against anyone, because he just wants to play again. But to make his Seahawks’ debut against Vikings, well, that’s beyond even off-the-charts emotionally. How will the Seahawks use him? How much will the Seahawks use him? How will the Vikings defend him? Keep your eye on No. 11 to find out.

One tough task

Vikings QB Christian Ponder vs. the Seahawks’ All-Pro duo of FS Earl Thomas and CB Richard ShermanPonder dislocated his left shoulder in the Vikings’ last game. Now, he gets the potentially painful task of facing the best safety and cornerback in the NFL in the din generated by the 12th Man. Thomas and Sherman each have four interceptions, while Thomas leads the Seahawks with 70 tackles and Sherman has a team-high 11 passes defensed even though opposing quarterbacks haven’t been throwing his way much lately. Even if Ponder decides it’s better to test Walter Thurmond on the other side, Thomas will be lurking and looking to take advantage of a passer who has thrown more interceptions (seven) than touchdown passes (five) and playing with a brace to protect his shoulder. Ponder was 11 of 22 for 63 yards in the Week 9 game against the Seahawks last season.

Don’t overlook

Seahawks QB Russell WilsonHe is 12-0 at CenturyLink Field, and Win No. 4 in that unbeaten-at-home streak came in Week 9 against the Vikings last season. In that 30-20 victory, Wilson threw three first-half touchdown passes and the third gave the Seahawks their first lead, 20-17, just before halftime. In his 12 games at CenturyLink Field, Wilson has completed 65 percent of his passes (170 of 261) for 2,322 yards, with 24 TD passes and six interceptions. Of the five games Wilson has with at least three TD passes, four have come at home. “He’s grown so much as a quarterback,” Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier said this week when asked to compare the rookie QB his team faced last season and the QB the Vikings are preparing to face Sunday. “He’s become so much more confident in throwing the ball down the field and he’s always been a guy who can escape very well. But the poise, the confidence, the command of the position, he’s grown tremendously.”

Worth noting

The Seahawks lead the series 7-5, including that Week 9 victory last season at CenturyLink Field that snapped the Vikings’ two-game winning streak. … The Seahawks have their bye next week and they are 18-6 in pre-bye games for the second-best percentage (.750) in the league. … Seahawks K Steven Hauschka leads the league in scoring with 93 points. … For the Seahawks, Pro Bowl LT Russell Okung returns for the first time since injuring a toe in Week 2; RT Breno Giacomini is back for the first time since damaging a knee in Week 3; and All-Pro C Max Unger returns after sitting out last week’s game with a concussion. … MLB E.J. Henderson leads the Vikings with 120 tackles, including 13 for loss.