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5 Vikings-Seahawks Storylines to Watch

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The Vikings (1-3) are heading to Seattle to face the Seahawks (4-0) for the third consecutive season.

It's the first time for Minnesota to travel to a non-division opponent for a game in three consecutive regular seasons since playing in Washington from 2010-12.

The NFL's rotational pattern for making a schedule has led to this situation. We've explained this a few times, including in January here.

Seems like a long, long time ago.

The matchup will be played in prime time on NBC's Sunday Night Football after two previous seasons of meeting for Monday Night Football.

Aside from the different day, and falling earlier in the calendar than the previous two encounters in Decembers, the biggest difference will be the lack of fans in attendance at CenturyLink Field, which is among the toughest places to play.

Here are five storylines to watch this week, as well as a link below to the game preview by the Vikings PR staff and a list of connections between the teams.

1. The script flipped

The Seahawks offense has undergone a makeover since the Vikings visited in December 2018.

Seattle finished that season ranked first in the NFL with 160 rushing yards per game and 27th in the league with 193.3 passing yards per game.

Last season, the running game remained central to Seattle's identity, even though it displayed more balance. The Seahawks ranked fourth with 137.5 rushing yards per game and 14th with 236.9 passing yards per game.

Through four games of 2020, Seattle has prioritized the passing game and racked up 303.0 yards per game through the air (third in the NFL) and is rushing for 113.3 (17th).

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

2. Defending the deep ball

The passing prowess of Russell Wilson has been on full-display. He has 16 touchdown passes on the season, tying Peyton Manning's 2013 record for the most through the first four games of a season.

Wilson also has accounted for two of the three games this season in which a QB has thrown five touchdowns in a game (Tom Brady notched the other game Sunday) and leads qualifying players with a passer rating of 136.7. Wilson connected for the five scores in home games against New England and Dallas in Weeks 2-3.

Since 2018, Wilson leads the NFL with 31 touchdown passes on throws that traveled 20-plus air yards, and Cousins is tied with Aaron Rodgers for third in the NFL with 23 touchdowns on such passes.

Minnesota and Seattle have struggled to defend deep passes (20+ air yards) this season.

The Vikings have allowed opponents to complete 12 of 19 passes for 444 yards with three touchdowns against one interception (passer rating of 124.5).

The Seahawks have allowed opponents to complete 11 of 15 passes for 359 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions (passer rating of 154.9).

Seattle's DK Metcalf leads receivers with at least 10 catches this season with an average of 25.2 yards per catch (403 yards on 16 catches), and Minnesota rookie Justin Jefferson ranks second with 21.8 yards per catch (348 yards on 16 catches). Seattle's David Moore ranks eighth in the category with 17.3 yards per catch (173 yards on 10 catches), by the way.

3. Continue feeding Cook?

Dalvin Cook took the NFL lead in rushing yards and touchdowns after posting 130 yards and two scores while making the Texans chase the perimeter. Not a single carry of Cook's 27 attempts against Houston went for a loss.

Instead of a defense allowing a league-worst 181.8 rushing yards per game, Cook will be facing a defense that ranks third in the league against the run (75.8 yards allowed per game).

There's no question how important Cook is within Minnesota's offense, but with Seattle's struggles at defending the pass so far this season, will the Vikings look more to the passing game than the emphasis on the run game?

4. Impressive in the red zone

The Vikings rank second in the NFL in red zone defense, having allowed touchdowns on seven of 17 possessions (41.2 percent) when opponents have reached the Minnesota 20-yard line.

The Seahawks lead the NFL in red zone offense having scored 13 touchdowns on 15 trips inside an opponent's 20-yard line (86.7 percent).

Minnesota has rewarded Head Coach Mike Zimmer's emphasis on that area in meetings and practices, but the team will face a challenge almost like no other because of Wilson's ability to escape pressure, improvise and execute highly improbable completions.

According to Next Gen Stats, Wilson's 38-yard touchdown to Moore in Week 2 is the least likely completion of 2020 (6.3 percent), and a 16-yard pass to Greg Olsen in Week 3 ranks 18th (22.0 percent).

Wilson threw four of the 20 least likely completions, including two plays that were red zone touchdowns, in 2019.

5. Stopping the streak?

Last week, the Vikings improved to a perfect 5-0 all-time against the Houston Texans.

This week, Minnesota is seeking its first win in Seattle since 2006 and trying to break a six-game skid in the series that include the teams' only meeting in the playoffs.

The Vikings are just 5-12 all-time against the franchise that began play as an expansion team in the NFC in 1976 then switched to the AFC from 1977-2001. Seattle returned to the NFC in 2002 when Houston played its inaugural season.

Vikings-Seahawks Connections

Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll was the defensive backs coach for the Vikings from 1985-89, working for Bud Grant for one season and Jerry Burns for four seasons.

Vikings DT Shamar Stephen played the 2018 season for the Seahawks. Stephen began his career with Minnesota in 2014. He returned in 2019 after one season away.

Professional Connections

Vikings Co-Defensive Coordinator Andre Patterson and Pete Carroll overlapped with the New England Patriots in 1997.

Seahawks Defensive Coordinator Ken Norton, Jr., played linebacker for the 49ers from 1994-2000. Vikings Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak (1994) and tight ends coach Brian Pariani (1991-94), and Seahawks offensive line coach Mike Solari (1992-96) were assistants in San Francisco.

Kubiak (1995-2005), Patterson (2005-06) and Vikings Offensive Line Coach/Run Game Coordinator Rick Dennison (1995-2009) overlapped with Seahawks tight ends coach Pat McPherson (1998-2008) for multiple seasons with the Denver Broncos.

Seahawks quarterbacks coach Austin Davis spent time with the Broncos but did not play for Denver in 2016. Kubiak (2015-16), Pariani (2015-16), Dennison (2015-16) and quarterbacks coach Klint Kubiak (2016-18) were on the same Denver staff.

Seattle defensive assistant/defensive line coach Damione Lewis played defensive tackle for the Houston Texans in 2010, wrapping his career when Gary Kubiak, Pariani and Dennison coached the Texans.

Vikings running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu (2005-09) held the same role with the Jaguars, and Seahawks secondary/nickel specialist Nick Sorensen played safety (2003-06) in Jacksonville.

College Connections

Vikings DE Danielle Hunter [IR] (2012-14) teamed with Seahawks S Jamal Adams (2014-16) and C/G Ethan Pocic (2013-16) at LSU.

Minnesota WR Justin Jefferson (2017-19) and Seattle G Damien Lewis (2018-19) were drafted in 2020 after helping the LSU Tigers win the 2019 College Football Playoff National Championship.

Vikings LT Riley Reiff (2008-11) and Seahawks quality control coach/defense Tom Donatell (2008-12) are former Iowa Hawkeyes.

Minnesota CB Jeff Gladney (2015-19) and Seattle DE L.J. Collier (2015-18) were teammates at TCU.

Vikings PR/KR K.J. Osborn (2019) and Seahawks RB DeeJay Dallas were drafted in 2020 after playing for Miami.

Minnesota CBs Holton Hill (2015-17) and Kris Boyd (2015-18) overlapped at Texas with Seattle P Michael Dickson (2015-17) and DT Poona Ford (2014-17).

Vikings CB Mike Hughes (2017) and Seahawks LB Shaquem Griffin (2013-17) helped UCF go undefeated in Hughes' only season with the team.

Minnesota S Josh Metellus (2016-19) teamed at Michigan with Seattle S Lano Hill (2013-16) and DT Bryan Mone (2014-18).

Vikings DE Eddie Yarbrough (2012-15) and Seahawks TE Jacob Hollister (2014-16) were teammates at Wyoming.

Minnesota RG Pat Elflein [IR] (2012-16) and Seattle T Jamarco Jones (2014-16) helped Ohio State win the 2014 College Football Playoff National Championship.

Local connections

Minnesota OL Ezra Cleveland is from Spanaway, Washington.

Seattle receivers coach Nate Carroll was born in Edina, Minnesota.

Seahawks offensive assistant Keli'i Kekuewa and strength and conditioning assistant Grant Steen worked together at the University of Minnesota in 2017.

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