Playoff hopefuls wrap up Week 13 in Seattle
Week 13 will wrap up on Monday night at CenturyLink Field as the Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings will get together for an ultra-critical battle for playoff position in the NFC. This will be a "Monday Night Football" rematch from 2018 when Seattle pulled away from Minnesota in the fourth quarter for a 21-7 victory.
The Seahawks (9-2) improved to 6-0 on the road in 2019 as they grinded out a 17-9 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday. Rashad Penny had a breakout day running the football with 129 yards on 14 carries, including a 58-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Russell Wilson was not at his best against a ferocious Philadelphia defense as he completed 13 of 25 passes for 200 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. The weather at Lincoln Financial Field wasn't ideal either, especially the windy conditions. The bright side for the Seahawks is that they were able to win a key road game without relying on Wilson to carry the team on his back. Turnovers were critical in this game as the Seattle defense flew around all afternoon long and caused five turnovers.
Minnesota (8-3) is coming off of a much-needed bye week following a tougher-than-expected game from Denver in Week 11. The Broncos came out on fire against the Vikings, sprinting out to a 20-0 lead. But, Minnesota's resilience rose to the occasion as the Vikings rallied at home for a 27-23 victory. Kirk Cousins completed 29 of 35 passes for 319 yards and three touchdowns. It hasn't always been the smoothest of rides for Cousins since signing his fully guaranteed contract worth $84 million but the comeback against Denver was just another example of him stepping up when his team needs him the most. That was especially the case since the Broncos limited Dalvin Cook to 26 yards on 11 carries.
Minnesota at Seattle
Kickoff: Monday, Dec.2 at 8:15 p.m. ET
Spread: Seahawks -3
Three Things to Watch
1. Seahawks' passing game vs. Vikings' secondary
Typically, the Seattle offense loves to set the tone by running the football. However, the Vikings are a very sturdy defensive front that is limiting teams to 94.2 yards per game on the ground. This means Russell Wilson is going to have to make plays in the passing game in order to free up opportunities to grind out some yards on the ground as the game progresses. Minnesota has had its issues in the past couple of weeks vs. the pass, surrendering 663 yards through the air the past two games, including 397 from Dak Prescott in a 28-24 win at Dallas in Week 10. DK Metcalf will need to bounce back from a forgettable performance in Philadelphia where he had two drops including one that would have been an easy touchdown in the second quarter that could have busted the game open. Tyler Lockett should be healthier this week as he continues to work his way back from a leg injury, he suffered back in Week 10 in the overtime win vs. San Francisco. Last week, Lockett saw just two targets, catching one of them for 38 yards.
2. Dalvin Cook vs. Seahawks' defense
Cook couldn't get much going in last year's matchup with Seattle, managing just 55 rushing yards on 13 carries. The lack of touches for Cook played a big part in the Vikings' loss to the Seahawks and was indicative of how Minnesota strayed from its strengths last year on offense. New offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski has re-established the Vikings as a run-first team and Cook has thrived. He's currently third in the league in rushing with 1,017 yards along with another 455 as a receiver. Cook will need to get the football early and often on Monday night as any success he has on the ground could help quiet the 12s at CenturyLink Field as well as move the chains and eat up some clock. That also will take pressure off of Kirk Cousins and open up some things in the passing game. Seattle has done a pretty good job at times against the run and I would imagine that defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. will stack the box against Cook. That strategy worked against San Francisco, as it forced Jimmy Garoppolo to beat the Seahawks with his arm. It's no different with Minnesota, although Cousins has put up some big games this season.
3. Turnover battle
The Seahawks have done a tremendous job of taking the football away in 2019 with 24 takeaways in 11 games, one of the big reasons why Seattle has a plus-nine turnover differential. Minnesota has created 16 turnovers and enters this game with a plus-four margin. Ball security is going to be paramount as Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny can ill afford to put the ball on the ground on Monday night. The Seahawks have already lost 12 fumbles with Carson, in particular, having some issues holding on to the ball. Fortunately, both quarterbacks have been fairly smart with the football as Wilson and Cousins have combined to throw nine interceptions thus far. It will be up to the defenses to try and dominate the line of scrimmage and get consistent pressure on the two signal-callers. The Vikings don't lack for playmakers on defense, including end Danielle Hutner, who has 8.5 sacks and 71 quarterback pressures. He's joined by linebackers Eric Kendricks (86 tackles, 12 passes defended), Anthony Barr, and safety Harrison Smith. Any of these guys are capable of coming up with a big play.
These two teams are going to battle each other late into the fourth quarter. The Seahawks and Vikings have a ton at stake, so avoiding the catastrophic mistake will be a huge factor in determining a winner on Monday night. Seattle has a 28-5-1 record under Pete Carroll in primetime and the Seahawks will once again step up on the national stage on Monday night in front of a raucous home crowd. Russell Wilson will make one more play in the passing game down the stretch to help secure Seattle's 10th win of the season in dramatic fashion.
Prediction: Seahawks 23, Vikings 17
— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ScottWhittum.