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Offensive Tilt of NFL Could Boost Points for Vikings-Seahawks in Prime Time

EAGAN, Minn. — We're a long way removed from January 2016.

Remember that year? The Vikings and Seahawks both boasted top-notch defenses, as Seattle was at the tail end of its dominating run, and Minnesota was just about to begin a strong multi-year stretch.

The Vikings and Seahawks meet in Week 5 on Sunday Night Football, and many don't expect the 10-9 defensive struggle that occurred in the Wild Card round of the playoffs on an unbelievably frigid day.

Instead, due to the combination of explosive offenses and leaky defenses, Sunday's prime-time matchup could be a shootout.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, a respected defensive mastermind, said he doesn't have a preference either way, although he'd likely prefer a low scoring affair if possible.

"I want it to be whatever it is where we have more points than them," Zimmer quipped. "You know, they're very explosive.

"We'd prefer to control the ball and control time of possession and not make mistakes and put us in bad situations offensively where we're first-and-20 and things like that," Zimmer added. "I think Seattle's recipe for success has always been turnover margin. It's going to be very important for us that we take care of the football and try to win that battle first."

Zimmer is spot-on with that assessment.

Through four games, Seattle is plus-5 in turnover margin, which is tied for second in the league. Minnesota, at minus-4, is tied for 25th.

The Seahawks are led by do-it-all quarterback Russell Wilson, who leads the NFL in completion percentage (75.2 percent), touchdown passes (16) and passer rating (136.7). He has thrown for 1,285 yards and is on pace to break the NFL's single-season record for touchdown passes.

Wilson has plenty of weapons around him, including second-year wide receiver DK Metcalf, who is tied for the league lead with 403 receiving yards on just 16 receptions. Metcalf leads the NFL with a whopping 25.2 yards per catch, and has scored three times.

Wide receiver Tyler Lockett has a team-high four scores, and running back Chris Carson and wide receiver David Moore each have multiple touchdown catches so far this season.

Add it up, and Seattle ranks second overall with 35.5 points per game and third in the NFL with 416.3 yards per game.

Defensively, the Vikings rank 26th with 31.3 points per game allowed, and are 29th overall with

Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Seahawks.

426.5 yards allowed per game.

"They're obviously letting Russell Wilson be more explosive," Zimmer said. "I think they're No. 1 in the league in pass average [at 8.85 yards per pass attempt].

"They've got terrific receivers, they're all fast … Moore has made some great catches," Zimmer added. "[Greg] Olsen, the tight end, I think that's helped them. They still have Carson as the runner and obviously Russell makes them go."

The statistics will be similar when the Vikings are on offense against the Seahawks, whose defense ranks 32nd at 476.8 yards per game allowed. Seattle is 21st at 27.3 points per game allowed.

The Vikings rank 22nd with 357.8 yards per game and are tied for 16th at 26.5 points per game. While Minnesota's offense stalled in Week 2 against Indianapolis, the Vikings hit the 30-point mark and surpassed 380 total yards of offense in three other contests.

Minnesota is also coming off perhaps its best offensive performance of the season, a turnover-free outing in which the Vikings amounted 410 total yards.

Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson each recorded 100-plus yards in Week 4, and helped produce nearly 90 percent of Minnesota's total offensive output.

The last time the Vikings had a pair of 100-yard receivers and a 100-yard rusher in the same game was back in 2000 with Randy Moss, Cris Carter and Robert Smith.

"I mean, to be honest, it helps the offense out to have me doing the things that I have and to have Adam making plays and having Dalvin run the ball," Jefferson said. "It's kind of hard to stop all three phases. Each week, our offense is getting better and better, we've just got to keep moving forward and keep grinding."

Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll is well-aware of the threat the Vikings playmakers possess, including Jefferson.

"I would think that everybody is really excited about him," Carroll said. "He's just done such a good job of showing kind of what you can expect of him, and he's just getting started.

"It's not just his explosion in and out of his breaks and the natural instincts he has to catch the football, but the run-after-the-catch stuff is really exceptional," Carroll added. "He's just an instant star, so I would think the Vikings fans and coaches and everybody is really fired up about having him."

If Sunday's game does turn out to be a high-scoring affair, perhaps it won't be too much of a surprise given the 2019 matchup was a 37-30 Seattle win — the second-highest scoring total for a Vikings game that season.

That likely wouldn't have happened in the past.

From 2012 to 2015, Seattle's defense led the league in points allowed, and were in the top five in yards allowed per game. In 2016, the Seahawks were third in points allowed and sixth in yards allowed.

That's right about the time Zimmer's unit went on a dominating run, as the Vikings ranked in the top 10 in points allowed from 2015-19, and were in the top 3 in yards allowed from 2016-18.

That run, of course, was highlighted by a 2017 season where Minnesota led the NFL in points and yards allowed per game.

Zimmer said he's a little surprised to see such recently historic defenses on the other end of that spectrum, but noted it doesn't mean both teams will be there all season long.

"Yeah, I would say so. But that doesn't mean we're going to end up that way," Zimmer said. "I think we're continuing to get better every week.

"Hopefully we can continue to stay healthy, we can keep getting better with the young players that we have, they can understand schemes and understand game situations," Zimmer added. "Seattle's given up some yards because they've had the lead, so I don't know if you really judge them on that yet."

Scoring is certainly up throughout the league, as teams are averaging 25.7 points per game through the first quarter of the 2020 season.

If that pace continues, that stat would set an NFL record, and surpass the 1948 total of 23.6 points per game.

Carroll offered some thoughts on why scoring is up across the league.

"It certainly seems like some of the fundamentals that make defense work, just running and hitting and tackling well, there's a lot of missed tackles," Carroll said. "I don't know if anybody is calculating missed tackles, but it seems like there's a lot of extra yards being made after the catch and in the open field.

"That gets back to the fundamentals of running, tracking the football and playing team ball," Carroll added. "I know we've had our issues in the passing game, and I think that's why the points are up so much. I think the defenses are not to the same level as the offenses."

If that's the case Sunday night in Seattle, there could be a new-fashioned shootout in prime-time.