The Seahawks have a huge chance to take control of the second seed in the NFC tonight. But it won’t be easy.
The Seahawks faced the Vikings a year ago (Dec. 10) and the defense had its best game of the season while Russell Wilson had one of his worst. We might see a similar formula tonight.
The last time Wilson failed to throw a TD pass was last December in the home Monday night game against Minnesota. He was terrible in that game, missing open receivers throughout, finishing just 10 of 20 for 60 yards with an interception. His only positive play was a key 40-yard run in the defense-dominated 21-7 win (which featured Bobby Wagner’s controversial leaping field goal block).
As they prepare for the redux, Wilson is coming off one of his only bad games in an otherwise superlative 2019 season. He completed just 13 of 25 passes, threw an interception, missed an easy TD toss and was sacked six times in Philadelphia.
Wilson and the Seattle offense are running a gantlet that is similar to their tough 2014 finish, with games against several top-10 defenses (by DVOA). Having already played — and struggled against — the 49ers’ second-ranked unit and Philadelphia’s seventh-ranked squad, Wilson now goes up against Minnesota’s No. 10 crew. The Rams (11th) are next.
Seattle is banged up across the board, but the offense might be in worse shape — with seven key players fighting through injuries. Luke Willson might be the only one to continue to miss time, but Tyler Lockett is far from full speed (playing on a bruised shin) and the line is battered — Justin Britt on IR and Duane Brown (knee), Mike Iupati (neck) and D.J. Fluker (shoulder) playing through injuries. D.K. Metcalf (knee) and Jacob Hollister (toe) each have new injuries as well, further hindering the passing attack.
Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny figure to be huge keys to this game. But can Seattle’s gimpy line, which spearheads the No. 6 rushing attack (136.9 ypg), succeed against the Vikings’ fifth-ranked rushing defense (94.2) and No. 6 scoring defense (18.6 ppg). Minnesota also might get back key starters Linval Joseph and Harrison Smith for this game.
It’s not going to be easy for Wilson and company, and Seattle’s defense will need to pull off a repeat of the last two weeks (eight takeaways) to help.
Jadeveon Clowney (sports hernia) and Jarran Reed (ankle) are expected to play, which will help a unit that is rife with other injuries: Mychal Kendricks (hamstring), Al Woods (ankle), K.J. Wright (shoulder/knee) and Quandre Diggs (hamstring).
And don’t discount the seasonal illness that ripped through the team this week, with Poona Ford, Tre Flowers and Shaquem Griffin all out or limited by it. That could hurt their efforts to stop Dalvin Cook and Minnesota’s third-ranked rushing offense (142.5).
Wilson is 5-0 against the Vikings in his career and 7-0 in home December night games. But, add up all of the other situational negatives, and it sure seems like the Hawks are going to have a tough time ascending to that No. 2 seed.
In other words, prepare for another ugly nail-biter.