The regular season is over, which means it's time for a Wild Card version of our weekly Twitter Q&A. As always, thanks to everyone who submitted questions, and apologies if I couldn't get to yours this time around.
@AaronHuff17 asks, "The Seahawks have a top five offense, defense and special teams. How many teams have ever done that?"
A: What Aaron is referring to is the FootballOutsiders.com ranking system known as DVOA, which measure's a team's efficiency by comparing success on every play to a league average based on situation and opponent. The Seahawks have finished each of the past four seasons with the league's No. 1 overall DVOA, and this year Football Outsiders had the Seahawks ranked second on offense, fourth on defense and third on special teams.
So how rare is that? Well it's tough to say because A. not everyone is going to agree on how much DVOA means—I'm a fan of the work done by Football Outsiders, but I know there are some who aren't into advance stats—and B. even if you do like that as a measure, they only have data going back to 1989. In that time, however, the 2015 Seahawks are one of only five teams to be top five in all three phases along with the 1991 Washington Redskins, the 1992 Philadelphia Eagles, the 1996 Green Bay Packers and the 2012 Seahawks.
If you want a more traditional measure of how impressive Seattle's balance is in 2015, consider that this is the first time in franchise history that they have been a top five in both yards gained and yards allowed, and only the second time they have been top five in points scored and points allowed.
@bRoundy asks, "Who would win in a fight between J.R Sweezy and a Kodiak bear?"
A: Sweezy plays with an edge that makes him a Tom Cable favorite, he's athletic, big and strong, and a former high school state champion wrestler in North Carolina. All of that being said, the Kodiak wins. Against any human. Now had you said black bear, we might have a real debate on our hands.
@UWDawgsBlogger asks, "How will the near 0-degree temperature affect the game?"
A: Understandably there were plenty of weather related questions this week, as it is expected to be rather cold in Minneapolis Sunday. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll often points out that his team doesn't worry about things it can't control—kickoff time, where on the schedule the bye week falls, etc.—and he'll no doubt say something along those lines Wednesday when this topic inevitably comes up.
All of that being said, however, the weather could come in to play on Sunday, though one that both teams have to deal with. There will be things like heaters on the sideline, heated benches, very warm jackets and more to help keep players warm while they're not on the field. On the field, however, players are going to have to deal with being uncomfortable, and it could affect certain aspects of the game such as throwing and catching, but again, that's something both teams will have to face.
@jnSLMN asks, "Would you rather take the middle seat between two crying babies or two defensive tackles like Ahtyba Rubin and Brandon Mebane on a five-hour flight?
A: Now this is a tough question. I guess I'd say if I have work to do, and therefore could use a little elbow room, I'd take the crying babies and put on some headphones. If I just want to have a conversation or relax and/or sleep, I'd cram in between the two big men (who are both pretty darn likeable guys, by the way).
@richardbackes asks, "Will the Seahawks see who's hot during the game on Sunday, or does Marshawn Lynch get the start for sure?"
A: Along with the weather, the most popular topic of discussion this week will be the status of Marshawn Lynch, who is expected to return to practice Wednesday after missing the past seven games with an abdomen injury. Carroll expressed optimism that Lynch will be ready Sunday, but added that they need to see how he comes through the week of practice. And if Lynch is available, Carroll thinks he'll be able to handle a pretty sizable load, especially seeing as he usually doesn't play much in the preseason before jumping into regular season action.
All of that being said, however, the Seahawks won't rush Lynch back if he isn't ready, nor will they force a 20-plus-carry workload on him if he's not ready for that. The good news is that the running game has been solid of late even without Lynch and Thomas Rawls, with Christine Michael rushing for 102 yards last week and Bryce Brown adding a touchdown. So whether Lynch is ready or not, or whether or not he can take on a big workload, the Seahawks will try to run the ball Sunday.
@HolliWinters asks, "How does the team keep loose preparing for the playoffs?"
A: In general, this team is pretty good at having fun at what they do while working hard, which starts at the top with one of the most fun-loving coaches you'll find in professional sports. It also helps that the vast majority of the players on Seattle's roster have been the postseason multiple times, which should keep them from making too much of the situation.
As for new ways the Seahawks have stayed loose this season, ping pong seems to help.
@twelfth_monkey asks, "Does this week's prep/practice schedule change at all now that they're in road show playoff mode compared to previous home-field playoffs?"
A: The week looks pretty much the same whether the Seahawks are home or on the road in terms of practice times, meeting, etc. so long as the game is on a Sunday. But obviously going on the road is different than being at home, from a logistical standpoint. The good news is that the Seahawks have won five straight on the road feeling very good about their play and their road routine this season.
"The thing we're most proud of right now as we go into the challenge of playoff season, if you look at our last few road games, we've just been on it," Carroll said after Seattle's win at Arizona. "We have really played well knowing we have to do this to get into the playoffs and move our way through it. I'm really fired up about that, because these guys are really confident that we can go wherever we've got to go… That's a really good asset for us right now. Hopefully we can build on that."
@Sullyvander asks, "Will Jeremy Lane play this week? If he does, will it be limited?
A: Carroll said Monday that they don't yet know the status of Lane, who left last week's game with a rib injury, for this week, other than to say Lane was feeling pretty good a day after the game.
While there is uncertainty about Lane, the news is mostly positive on the injury front overall. In addition to possibly getting Lynch back, Carroll expressed optimism that Russell Okung (calf), Kam Chancellor (pelvis), J.R. Sweezy (concussion) and Luke Willson (concussion) will all be back this week.
@RG5 asks, "What do you expect to see different in this week's matchup from the first meeting?"
A: The Seahawks won in impressive fashion at Minnesota, posting a 38-7 victory over the eventual NFC North champs. That result understandably has inspired confidence in Seahawks fans, but don't expect things to come so easily this time around. For starters, the Vikings will likely try to get the ball more to Adrian Peterson, who had just eight carries for 18 yards in the previous meeting, which should help their offense. Yes, the Seahawks are No. 1 in the NFL in run defense, but a back as good as Peterson is always dangerous given enough touches. Secondly, the Vikings will be a lot healthier on defense this time around, which should make things at least a little tougher on Russell Wilson and company.
@jetotten asks, "What would be the betting line on an actual Seahawk vs. an actual Viking?"
A: Let's end on a fun one, shall we? This is a classic speed vs. power matchup, and I'm not sure we can establish a betting line without more rules. Does the Viking have weapons? Are they in a confined space? If the Viking is unarmed and out in the open, I like a bird's chances to slowly peck and claw its opponent into submission. If, however, this is a cage match, then I'd give the edge to a Viking.