The Vikings will complete a tough late-season back-to-back road game swing when they battle the Seahawks on Monday Night Football at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. There is much at stake in this Week 14 contest and there are a bevy of intriguing storylines to amplify the build-up during the week.
Here are five storylines to follow this week.
1. Vikings looking to get the running game right
The Vikings rushed for 95 yards on 13 carries against the New England Patriots. That’s a per-carry average of 7.3 yards, with Dalvin Cook generating a per-carry average of 9.3 yards with 84 yards on nine carries. So now the narrative has shifted from “The Vikings CAN’T run the ball” to “The Vikings SHOULD run the ball more”. Interesting how this game takes us all on twists and turns.
2. Mettle of Vikings run defense will be tested
The Vikings defense ranks No. 5 in rushing yards allowed per attempt (3.7) and seventh in rushing yards allowed per game (99.2). Also, the Vikings have allowed a League-low six runs of 15+ yards. But Seattle’s offense isn’t going to back away from the challenge of trying to run the ball against Linval Joseph and Co. In fact, a commitment to the run has been a calling card of Seattle’s in its three-game winning streak. In those three wins, Seattle is running on 54% of its snaps and is averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Seattle’s commitment to running the ball is best illustrated by these statistics, though: 54% of Seattle’s runs the last three weeks have been for 3 yards or less but 18% of their runs in the last three weeks have been for 10 yards or more. This means Seattle continues to pound the ball on the ground time and again, and eventually they pop big runs. Something has to give on Monday night.
3. Minnesota’s 100-catch men
It has been 14 seasons since a Vikings receiver has had 100 catches. This season, the Vikings could have two receivers reach that threshold. Adam Thielen leads the NFL in receptions with 98 and Stefon Diggs enters Week 14 with 84 receptions, which is the sixth-most in the NFL and is even more impressive considering he missed a game earlier this season. Thielen’s 98 catches are the third-most in NFL history through the first 12 games of a season and his 1,166 receiving yards are second-most in the NFL this season. Last week, this talented tandem was held in check by Bill Belichick’s Patriots defense; the pair combined for 77 yards on 10 catches. This week, the pair will try to get things going again with quarterback Kirk Cousins.
4. Vikings look to register first victory over winning team
Head coach Mike Zimmer gets a kick out of hearing what everyone thinks his team can’t do. This week’s “You can’t do that” tagline is about the Vikings beating a team with a winning record. The Vikings have yet to do that in 2018. That can change this week. The Seahawks are 7-5 and own the top wild card spot in the NFC. A win on Monday night for the Vikings will flip-flop them with Seattle and it will bring the Vikings one step closer to challenging the Chicago Bears for the 2018 NFC North title. The Bears are two wins ahead of the Vikings heading into Week 14 but the Vikings must make up only one win before the season finale in order to make the Week 17 the de facto NFC North championship game.
5. Playoff implications at stake in final game of Week 14
The Vikings and Seahawks enter Week 14 hold the NFC’s two wild card spots, with Seattle as the No. 5 seed and Minnesota as the No. 6 seed. A Seattle win means its status quo for the Seahawks while the Vikings would be on the outside looking in if their loss is paired with wins by Carolina, Philadelphia or Washington. On the flip side, a Vikings win would push them up a spot to the No. 5 seed and the loss would move Seattle out of the picture if paired with a Washington win. Seattle would remain in the picture as the No. 6 seed even in a loss if Washington loses because they currently hold the tie breaker over Carolina (head-to-head win) and Philadelphia (conference record). It’s a lot to comprehend right now, but the picture will only become clearer as Week 14 comes to a close on Monday night in Seattle.