The wait for one of the biggest games of the season is almost over.
The Vikings and Seahawks — both teams with winning records and everything to play for over the final month of the season — square off on Monday Night Football in Seattle. Kickoff is at 7:15 (CT) tonight.
Minnesota is 8-3 and can win the NFC North if it wins its five remaining games.
Seattle, meanwhile, is 9-2 and would claim the NFC West with a perfect December slate.
And while there has been plenty of coverage on the Purple since the team returned from its bye, Vikings.com chatted with Seahawks reporter John Boyle of Seahawks.com for a glance at what the other side is thinking before Sunday’s contest.
Here is the Week 13 edition of Opposing Viewpoint:
We’ll start with perhaps the biggest storyline for this one — the quarterbacks. Kirk Cousins has been on fire since Week 5, and now leads the NFL with a passer rating of 114.8. But Russell Wilson is right behind him at 112.1. With both quarterbacks playing at an MVP-level in 2019, do you think whichever player performs better will lead his team to a win?
JB: A few weeks ago, I probably would have said yes. After all, Wilson has been great all season and so much of Seattle’s success on offense has gone through him. But Seattle’s last two games — wins over the 49ers and Eagles — have seen the defense turn things around rather dramatically, and helped show that the Seahawks can win without Wilson and the offense putting up huge numbers.
Obviously, a big performance from Wilson and the passing game would be big, and the Seahawks know they’ll have their hands full with Cousins and company, but Seattle’s last two games have showed they have the kind of balance to win a variety of ways.
For years, the Seahawks had one of the league’s best defenses. This year, Seattle ranks 20th in points allowed at 23.9 and is 23rd in yards allowed per game (370.3). But the unit is coming off its best game of the season by holding the Eagles to just nine points. Who or what is the key ingredient that makes the Seattle defense work?
JB: As mentioned earlier, the defense has been a lot better over the past two games, recording eight takeaways and eight sacks against the 49ers and Eagles. The biggest change has been a vastly improved pass rush, which in the last two weeks has completely changed the complexion of Seattle’s defense, helping make game-changing plays behind the line of scrimmage while also making life easier on Seattle’s secondary. As for who some of the key ingredients are, it always starts with middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, who this season became the franchise’ all-time leading tackler, and really the Seahawks have relied heavily on all three linebackers, Wagner, K.J. Wright and Mychal Kendricks. Up front, Jadeveon Clowney has been very good all season even if the sack numbers don’t show it, but what might be more significant is how that unit played without him last week, getting a good pass rush from the likes of Ziggy Ansah, Shaquem Griffin, Quinton Jefferson, Rasheem Green and Jarran Reed.
On the back end, the addition of safety Quandre Diggs has provided a big boost to a unit that was already getting strong play out of fellow safety Bradley McDougald and corners Shaquill Griffin and Tre Flowers.
Both the Vikings and Seahawks are in a similar spot — winning records but not at the top of their division. How important is this game to Seattle in the playoff picture, both in terms of trying to catch San Francisco and also trying to inch closer to a playoff berth?
JB: Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and his players will always tell you that every game is big because they all count the same in the standings, so they won’t treat this one any different or play with any different sense of urgency or anything like that. But for those of us not playing in the game, sure it’s fair to look at the standings and realize that this and every other game down the stretch will be huge for both teams if they want to stay in their respective division races. The Seahawks need to keep winning, obviously, but they do have the advantage of controlling their own destiny having already beaten the 49ers once.
Wilson, Wagner and Clowney are household names around the league. But which Seahawks player that the average fan might not know about has made an impact in 2019?
JB: I mentioned him earlier when talking about the defense, but Quandre Diggs has come in and really helped give the secondary a spark in his two starts, intercepting a pass, forcing a fumble and recovering one while also playing the physical brand of football the Seahawks love from their safeties.
On offense, the best player outside of Wilson has probably been receiver Tyler Lockett, who is in the midst of a career year. If you want a name that is less known to the casual fan, I’d point to the recent play of tight end Jacob Hollister. After spending the first five weeks on the practice squad, Hollister has had to play a lot in recent weeks due to a couple of injuries at tight end, and he’s responded with three touchdowns in Weeks 9 and 10. He should have had one last week, too, if not for a very rare miss from Wilson.
And finally, pick a Vikings player on each side of the ball are you most looking forward to watching Monday night.
JB: I’ll go Dalvin Cook and Harrison Smith. Cook because, well, it’s hard not to enjoy watching a dynamic running back who can make plays in the passing game and as a runner. And Smith because years of watching Seattle’s secondary leads to a strong appreciation of good safety play, and Smith is one of the best in the business.