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The Skinny Post: Vikings, Seahawks Ready to Tangle on 'Monday Night Football'

EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings enter the final stretch of the 2018 season in prime position for a playoff spot, but there is still plenty of work to do.

Minnesota sits at 6-5-1 and in a Wild Card spot with a month left in the season, and the Vikings are still in contention for a third NFC North title in four seasons.

The Vikings now get a chance to show out in another prime-time game — Minnesota's fifth of the season — on Monday Night Football in Seattle. Kickoff is at 7:15 p.m. (CT).

The Seahawks would also be a Wild Card team if the season ended today, as Seattle is 7-5 on the season.

The Vikings are 29-32 on Monday Night Football in franchise history. Minnesota, which has won three of its past four games in the prime-time slot, has never faced Seattle on Monday night.

Here are three areas to watch in Monday night's contest, plus some noteworthy stats on both teams:

Start fast | By @Eric_L_Smith

The Seahawks have one of the best home-stadium environments in the NFL as Seattle is 41-12 at CenturyLink Field since the start of the 2012 season.

A good start by Minnesota could ease a little bit of steam from the crowd.

"That's any stadium, though," said Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs, "as far as when you go in and try to score fast, try to be productive on offense, get stops on defense, you could possibly get rid of ["the 12th man"].

"I hear the stadium's pretty loud. It's going to be a grind. They've been playing really well," Diggs added. "I think they're on a three-game winning streak, and they're looking to probably keep things going. It's definitely going to be a grinder for us, just managing and sustaining drives and doing what we need to do to win."

Seattle also ranks first in total rushing attempts (380) and is first in rushing yards per game at 148.8 this season.

The best way to get a win on the road in a tough environment? Start fast, and score early.

The Vikings are 6-2-1 when they are ahead or tied with their opponent at the end of the first quarter.

Minnesota averages 4.8 points in the first quarter this season, which ranks 19th in the NFL. A scoring drive or two to start the game could go a long way toward getting a win.

Winning the turnover battle in Seattle | By @LindseyMNSports

Being responsible with the ball will be of the utmost importance tonight.

The Seahawks are plus-11 in turnover differential, which was tied with the Rams for No. 2 in the NFL entering Week 14. Seattle's defense has 20 takeaways, and offensively they've only given the ball away nine times, which is the best in the league. Conversely, Minnesota has given up nine interceptions and nine fumbles.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has emphasized the significance of winning the turnover battle, and his message is backed by the stats. In 76 games under Zimmer, Minnesota is 30-6 when winning the turnover battle, 9-18-1 when losing the turnover battle and 6-6 when it's the same.

Will they go up-tempo? | By @pcraigers

The time left on the clock necessitated playing fast.

Minnesota needed to go 74 yards after getting the ball with 1:52 remaining in the first half last week at New England.

The hurry-up offense was successful, going the distance in 1:37 and earning first downs four times on six plays before Kirk Cousins found Adam Thielen for a 5-yard touchdown pass, Minnesota's first score of the game.

The blueprint to beating the Patriots usually involves winning time of possession, so going up-tempo frequently at New England may not have been as enticing, but the rhythm that Minnesota found in the 2-minute drill is a vibe that the Vikings would like to have in the final four games of the regular season.

"I think when we're able to play fast, we've had some success with it, just being able to line up and play football. … I think it's always good to mix it in games. I appreciate when coaches do it," Thielen said. "When you get in that rhythm, you can get up and go, the thing is you have to make the plays and get first downs to allow the coach to do it. You kind of have to pull your part to be able to allow the coach to have that option, really."

The Vikings haven't had a touchdown drive last more than 3:39 (at Chicago) since scoring on the opening possession of the second half against Detroit, a drive that lasted 5:07.

In between trying to rally at Chicago and New England, the Vikings had four scoring drives against the Packers, running six plays in 3:37, eight in 3:15, seven in 3:54 and four in 1:19.

Will the Vikings choose to go up-tempo more tonight?

Substantial Stats

— Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has thrown 23 touchdown passes so far in 2018 and is on pace for 30-plus touchdowns. Cousins' career high is 29 touchdown passes (in 2015).

— Both defenses rank in the top 10 on third-downs in 2018. Minnesota is first at 29.9 percent, and Seattle is ninth at 37.3 percent.

— The Seahawks have three players with at least five touchdown catches in 2018, and were one of five teams (along with the Bengals, Chiefs, Chargers and Buccaneers) entering Week 14. Tyler Lockett leads Seattle with nine scores while David Moore and Jaron Brown have five touchdowns apiece.

— The Vikings and Seahawks have gone five straight seasons with one team winning a respective division title. Minnesota won the NFC North in 2015 and 2017. Seattle won the NFC West in 2013, 2014 and 2016.

Quotable

"I think going on the road with that crowd and the type of football team that they are, I think yeah, a little bit," Zimmer said. "These next four games will determine what we do and where we go and how we perform in the clutch. Yeah, I guess you could say that."

— Zimmer on whether or not tonight's game has a playoff feel.

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