The Vikings will host the two-time defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. Seattle enters the game having won two straight and appearing poised for one of their patented late-season runs, while the Vikings enter off their fourth consecutive road victory and in 1st place in the NFC North.
Here are five Vikings-Seahawks storylines we'll be chasing this week in the buildup to Week 13...
1. Two nasty defenses collide
Both the Vikings and Seahawks do a lot of things well. But make no mistake, these two teams derive a big part of their identity from their defense. The Vikings enter this week's matchup with top 5 rankings in points allowed (2nd), red zone defense (3rd) and passing yards allowed per game (4), plus they are 6th in 3rd down defense. Seattle enters with top 5 rankings in fewest passing TDs allowed (1st) total yards allowed per game (4th), 3rd down defense (5th) and red zone defense (5th), plus they rank 8th in scoring defense. Points will be at a premium on Sunday.
2. Vikings look to contain Russell Wilson
This week the Vikings defense is tasked with containing a Super Bowl-winning QB – Russell Wilson. And not just "contain" as in keep his passing numbers to a minimum. It's "contain" as in literally contain him in the pocket. Wilson can beat you from the pocket, something the Pittsburgh Steelers found out last week. But he does his best work when he's on the move. Seattle can run the read option/zone read with him, they can roll him out, and they can rely on him to evade pressure and buy time for his receivers to eventually break open. In much the same way the Vikings planned to defend another Super Bowl-winning QB a couple weeks ago (Aaron Rodgers), they will look to pressure Wilson while also keeping him contained in the pocket.
3. Challenging stretch of games begins for Vikings
There are no easy games in the NFL. But some have a higher degree of difficulty than others. For the Vikings, the final five games of the season include a high degree of difficulty on a weekly basis. It begins over the next week, when the Vikings will host the battle-tested Seahawks and turn around four days later to play the 9-2 Arizona Cardinals on the road on a Thursday night. The Vikings then close with three more playoff hopefuls – vs. Chicago, vs. the NY Giants and at Green Bay.
4. Another big step in the playoff chase
Last week's Vikings game was one of just two between a pair of teams who were both in the playoff field at the time. This week's Vikings game is the only game between two teams who would both be in the playoffs if the postseason started this weekend. Entering this week, the Vikings hold the NFC's No. 3 seed and Seattle holds the No. 6 seed, which also means the Vikings would host the Seahawks if the playoffs started this weekend. Suffice it to say, this week's Vikings-Seahawks game will have a significant impact on the NFC playoff field entering Week 14.
The Vikings played last week without S Harrison Smith and then fellow S Andrew Sendejo left the game. Plus there may have been injuries that came from Sunday's game in Atlanta that will impact this Sunday's game against Seattle. Speaking of Seattle, they will be without TE Jimmy Graham and RB Marshawn Lynch. LB Bruce Irvin's status bears monitoring, as well, because he wound up playing last week but was listed as doubtful with a knee injury.