The Seahawks are back in Minnesota a little over a month after winning big at TCF Bank Stadium, this time for a wild-card playoff game against the Vikings, who finished the season with three straight wins to earn an NFC North titles.
To find out more about the Vikings, and why this game might look different than Seattle's 38-7 dominant win last time around, we reached out to Vikings.com's Mike Wobschall to learn more about Seattle's playoff opponent.
Q: How are the Vikings viewing the previous matchups between these two teams? Is it a game they'd rather forget? One they're using for motivation? Something else?
Wobschall: I can't say they've taken a conscious step toward forgetting the Week 13 loss, but I also know they feel the way that game transpired wasn't representative of the team they wanted to be and of the team they are now. The Vikings have gotten better each week since the Week 13 loss at home to Seattle. Linval Joseph didn't play in the game and both Anthony Barr and Harrison Smith were out by the 11th play, so having those three studs back in the lineup will certainly help balance the scales a bit. That's the good news. The bad news is I don't know that there's a team playing better right now than Seattle when you factor in all three phases plus the play of the QB.
Q: The Vikings defense was not at full strength last time around. How much better prepared are they to face Russell Wilson and company this time around?
Wobschall: Much better. Whether it makes a difference or not, we'll see. The Vikings defense is in great form entering this game. They battled well while short-handed at Arizona and held an explosive Cardinals offense to below its season averages in most statistical categories. The defense helped in blowout wins over the Bears and Giants. And the defense played great for the most part against Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau Field last week. Having Barr and Smith back in particular will help the defense contend with Wilson and his receivers.
Q: If the weather turns out as advertised, do the Vikings see that as an advantage over a team from a moderate climate, or is this just too cold to help anyone?
Wobschall: Mike Zimmer has been great at getting his team to embrace challenges. It's been a theme all season for this team. The anticipated weather conditions represent another challenge for this team (and for Seattle). So I wouldn't say the Vikings feel the cold is an advantage for them based on it being a disadvantage for Seattle, rather the focus is on embracing the cold and on getting accustomed to performing in the cold. That approach will ultimately make the conditions, whatever they may be on any game day, an advantage in the eyes of the players at kickoff. Sheesh, that's almost sounded too philosophical!
Q: Adrian Peterson carried just eight times for 18 yards. How important is it to get him going in this game?
Wobschall: I'd argue it's paramount for the Vikings to win the time of possession battle. If getting Adrian going is one way to do that, I'm all for it. Whatever it takes to move the chains and sustain drives is what the Vikings need to find a way to do on Sunday. This is a Seahawks offense that ranks No. 1 in time of possession and No. 2 in points per game over the last seven games, so keeping Russell Wilson and Co. on the sidelines is important. That's a big reason why Seattle is such a tough team to face right now – we're sitting here saying we need to keep the offense on the sideline, which means we'll see more of the Seattle defense, and the Seattle defense ranks No. 1 in scoring defense!
Q: If the Seahawks and the league's No. 1 run defense can again keep Peterson in check, what can Teddy Bridgewater and the passing game do better to move the ball against Seattle?
Wobschall: Two things come to mind. The first is getting the ball to running backs, fullbacks and possibly the tight ends in the short passing game. Adrian and Jerick McKinnon, specifically, can be very good after the catch. Granted, Seattle is as good a tackling defense as I've ever seen, but high-percentage throws that get playmakers, including WRs Stefon Diggs and Mike Wallace, in space could be a way to capitalize on a Seahawks defense that will be paying a lot of attention to the NFL's leading rusher. The second is to answer aggression with aggressiveness. The Vikings have gotten over the top of Seattle's defense in the past with double moves (Jarius Wright) and I see no reason why trying to do that this time around isn't a good idea. It takes protection and timing, of course, but we've seen other teams create big plays in the passing game against Seattle this season and the Vikings can try to do the same.
The Seahawks play their 11th wild-card game in franchise history this Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. This gallery throws you back to each of the Seahawks' previous 10 wild-card games, including their first-ever playoff game in 1983 facing the Denver Broncos and their most recent in 2012 versus the Washington Redskins.