The Vikings will host their first playoff game since 2009 on Sunday, welcoming a Seattle Seahawks team that is on fire but that will be playing its first road playoff game since the Divisional Round in 2012.
Here are five of the biggest Vikings-Seahawks storylines we’ll be chasing in the build-up to Wild Card Weekend...
1. Surging Seahawks come to town
The Vikings are the higher seed, but Seattle comes into Sunday’s game favored. Seattle surged its way into the postseason, winning six of its last seven games and scoring 32.0 points per game, a run that includes a 36-6 whipping of division rival and NFC No. 2 seed Arizona last weekend on the road. Throw in the fact that Seattle is the two-time defending NFC champions and has already defeated the Vikings in Minnesota by a wide margin (38-7), and one can see why so many are pegging the Seahawks as road winners in this matchup. The Vikings are out to show that all of that is in the past, though, and they’ll enter the game with momentum from last week’s NFC North title and with a healthier defense than they had in the previous matchup.
2. Frigid temperatures
Sunday’s game will be the latest outdoor Vikings game in franchise history and it will be the first outdoor home playoff game for the Vikings since 1976. It sounds like Mother Nature plans to add to the theatrics of it all. The forecast for Sunday calls for a high of 0 degrees and a low of -10. If the forecast holds up, Sunday’s game will be the second-coldest in Vikings history and the coldest playoff game in Vikings history. With winds expected to exceed 10 miles per hour throughout the day, the wind chill will make it feel even colder. Whether the frigid temperatures create an advantage for either team or for the defense or offense is up for debate. What’s not up for debate is the fact that Sunday’s game will be one of the coldest any of the coaches, players or fans will ever be a part of.
3. Beast Mode poised for return to lineup
Seattle RB Marshawn Lynch has missed the last seven games after he had surgery on his abdomen, but head coach Pete Carroll announced earlier in the week that Beast Mode is back and ready to rock. Lynch has been one of the NFL’s best RBs during his time in Seattle, and it’s never a bad thing to get good players back in the lineup. What will be interesting to see is just how the Seahawks reintroduce Lynch into the plan. In the seven games Seattle played without Lynch, they ranked No. 1 in time of possession, 3rd down offense and 1st downs per game and also No. 2 in points per game, total yards per game and rushing yards per game.
While the Seahawks are set to welcome back their star RB, the Vikings will hope to have theirs remain in the lineup this week. Adrian Peterson was dealing with a back issue that forced him from the game last week, but he was able to return to the lineup and then in the locker room after the game said he expected to be ready to go for Sunday’s game against Seattle. His inclusion is obviously important for the Vikings as they look to get their offense back on track this week after finding the end zone just once in Green Bay.
5. Vikings look to continue redemption tour
For those who recognize redemption as a source of motivation, the Vikings may be the team to root for in this year’s playoffs. After avenging a Week 11 loss to Green Bay with a division-clinching victory in Week 17, the Vikings now host another team that defeated them earlier in the season (Week 13). A win over Seattle would setup a Divisional Playoff game against the Arizona Cardinals, who defeated the Vikings in Week 14. And then a victory in Arizona would set up a NFC title game that, if they won it, would send the Vikings to San Francisco, site of their Week 1 loss to the 49ers.