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NFC Wild Card Preview and Prediction: Seattle Seahawks vs. Minnesota Vikings

Author:
Teddy Bridgewater

Teddy Bridgewater

The Minnesota Vikings (11-5) secured their first NFC North division title since 2009 with a 20-13 win at Green Bay in Week 17. But after earning the No. 3 seed, the Vikings face a tough opening matchup in the NFC playoffs.

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The Seattle Seahawks (10-6) look to continue their recent postseason success but this time as a wild card team. The Seahawks have made the NFC Championship Game in each of the last three seasons and the last two Super Bowls – including a victory in 2013.

Both teams are coming off strong finishes to end their regular seasons and look like two potential sleepers in the NFC bracket. Here's a look at Sunday's matchup in Minneapolis:

NFC Wild Card: Seattle at Minnesota

Kickoff: 1:05 p.m. ET (Sunday)

TV: NBC

Spread: Seattle -6

Three Things to Watch

1. Freezing weather could play a crucial role

Minnesota is hosting its first outdoor playoff game in more than 39 years. The Vikings had since played in the Metrodome and missed the playoffs last season in their first of two renting out TCF Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota.

In case you didn't know, it's unbearably cold in Minnesota during the late winter months, which used to play to the Vikings' advantage during their early years. Though it's not like Seattle is Arizona or Miami coming from a warm climate, the 1-degree forecast could play to Minnesota's advantage.

Still, with both teams having two of the league's best running backs the frigid weather shouldn't provide too much of a drastic change in the game plan.

2. Seahawks look to continue hot streak

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In contrast with the weather, Seattle has been one of the league's hottest teams in recent weeks. The Seahawks have won six of their last seven games including a 38-7 rout at Minnesota on Dec. 6.

Seattle also is coming off a 36-6 win last week over NFC West division champ Arizona to split their season series. The Cardinals played their starters, despite having already secured the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs, so Sunday's win was huge for the Seahawks' momentum.

Seattle has made two consecutive Super Bowl appearances for a reason. The Seahawks know how to get hot at the right time.

The team has looked more like its past self in the last few weeks than it did during its disappointing 2-2 start.

3. Will Teddy step up in the postseason?

Teddy Bridgewater has done everything asked of him in his second season. Many label him as a "game manager," which is all the Vikings have needed to win their first division title since 2009.

Bridgewater's numbers aren't going to win him an MVP, but aside from Adrian Peterson, he's been the most important individual player to the team's success. He's been consistent throughout 2014 and stepped up when needed.

But he's set to play his first career playoff game in frigid weather against a recent Super Bowl and reigning NFC champion. Can the second-year quarterback prove once again that he's a franchise quarterback? He'll need to for the Vikings to pull off an upset at home.

Final Analysis

Minnesota had two losses that defined its season: Green Bay in Week 11 and Seattle in Week 13. Both teams humbled the Vikings, who had previously won seven of their first 10 games and looked like one of the most balanced teams in the NFC.

Minnesota has since returned to form with three consecutive wins to end its season including an answer to Green Bay's previous

victory with a 20-13 win Sunday night to take the NFC North.

Seattle's recent success will make most think that it's primed for another Super Bowl run, but it’s hardly the same team. There are some flaws that the Vikings should expose on Sunday and earn their first postseason victory since 2009.

Prediction: Vikings 20, Seahawks 17

— Written by Jason Hall, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and works for Fox Sports Florida. Follow him on Twitter @jasonhallFSN.