Vikings, Seahawks close out the Week 5 Sunday slate in primetime
"Sunday Night Football" heads into Week 5 on NBC with a good news/bad news scenario for football fans as the Seattle Seahawks and the Minnesota Vikings will meet at CenturyLink Field. The good news is these two teams tend to play some dramatic games on national television, including a 37-30 Seahawks win over the Vikings 37-30 on "Monday Night Football" last season. Now, the bad news is that fans will have to go back to listening to Cris Collinsworth without a mask this week. Collinsworth and Al Michaels ended up having to call last week's Philadelphia-San Francisco game in Santa Clara with masks on, which made for some interesting television.
Russell Wilson tied Peyton Manning's record of 16 passing touchdowns after four games last week as Seattle (4-0) held off Miami for a 31-23 win to stay undefeated. Wilson completed 24-of-34 passes for 360 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. DK Metcalf caught four passes for 106 yards. David Moore and Tyler Lockett chipped in with multiple explosive plays on deep balls from Wilson that always seemed to come at the right time on Sunday. The defense made some more progress this week by limiting Ryan Fitzpatrick to 315 passing yards despite playing without Jamal Adams and Quinton Dunbar in the secondary. K.J. Wright made plays all over the place, totaling eight tackles and three pass defenses. Shaquill Griffin got back on track with a key interception in the fourth quarter that allowed the Seahawks offense to cash it in a few plays later to extend their lead to 31-15. Limiting explosive plays helped the Seattle defense a great deal — they did not allow a play of longer than 26 yards to the Dolphins.
Minnesota (1-3) picked up their first win of the season by beating the Houston Texans, 31-23, on the road. Dalvin Cook took advantage of the worst run defense in the NFL by rushing for 130 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries. Cook is on a roll heading with back-to-back 100-yard rushing performances heading into this showdown with the Seahawks. Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson combined for 12 receptions for 217 yards and a touchdown, which took the pressure off of Kirk Cousins. The Vikings defense did a nice job of pressuring Deshaun Watson, as they recorded three sacks on the afternoon. Winning third down was another key to Minnesota's success against Houston, as they converted 41 percent on third down offensively and held the Texans to just 25 percent on third down. Keep an eye on this stat this week since they will have to find a way to stay on the field offensively for as long as possible.
Minnesota at Seattle
Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 11 at 8:20 p.m. ET
Spread: Seahawks -7
Three Things to Watch
1. Can the Seahawks contain the Vikings' big three on offense
This week will provide a stiff test for the Seattle defense, and Minnesota has a big three of Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, and Justin Jefferson that can cause all sorts of headaches for opposing teams. Cook was limited to just 28 yards on nine carries in last year's contest against Seattle, and that was a big reason why the Vikings lost. Thielen also missed last year's game with a hamstring injury, and Jefferson is starting to settle into his rookie season nicely — he has 11 catches for 278 yards and a touchdown over the last two weeks.
The Minnesota offensive staff has to establish the run game with Cook and Alexander Mattison and not get impatient if it's not effective right away. That could be the key to opening things for Cousins in the passing game. As for the Seahawks, it all circles back to the health of the secondary since Adams (groin) will be out again this week with a groin injury and Dunbar (knee) was a limited participant on Thursday. If Dunbar can't go, it'll be up to Tre Flowers to step up and make plays at the other cornerback slot.
2. Minnesota defense
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer and his defensive staff will have one heck of a challenge in front of them this week when they have to deal with the Seattle offense. The Vikings are allowing 31.3 points per game and have had issues taking the ball away, as they only have two interceptions after four games. Part of that is due to their inability to generate pressure. After that was a massive strength last season, their seven sacks are tied for 10th-lowest in the league.
Yannick Ngakoue has been the lone bright spot with 4.0 sacks, but the team has badly missed Danielle Hunter, who remains out indefinitely with a neck injury. Three other players have recorded exactly one sack, but the team should have an opportunity to feast against a Seahawks O-line that has allowed 11 sacks (tied for 11th-most) this season. Finishing drives defensively by getting the Seahawks off the field will be key, and sacks are one of the easiest ways to do that.
Last week was a prime example of this. Wilson got the ball back with 24 seconds left in the first half and connected with Moore on a 57-yard pass. Two plays later, Wilson finished the drive off by firing a three-yard touchdown pass to Travis Homer to extend their lead to 17-9 at halftime.
3. The "Snacks" Harrison effect
Seattle signed defensive tackle Damon "Snacks" Harrison to the practice squad on Wednesday to bolster their defensive line. Harrison, an All-Pro in 2016, is a proven run stopper who should have plenty of motivation to play after his eventful experience in Detroit under head coach Matt Patricia. It's unclear if the Seahawks will activate Harrison to their 53-man roster before the game, but if they do, he could play in the neighborhood of 10 snaps this week as he continues to work into football shape.
The biggest benefit of signing a player like Harrison is that it should make everyone else around him better because teams will have to pay extra attention to him. Look for Jarran Reed to have more one-on-one situations as a result of this signing. Rookie Alton Robinson and L.J. Collier should also benefit out on the edge as well as the Seahawks continue to try to find ways to generate additional pressure on the quarterback.
The over in Vegas should be in danger once again this week since both teams are going to put up their fair share of points. The difference between the teams may come down to offensive versatility, though. Wilson has too many weapons at his disposal, and this will likely take a toll on the Vikings' defense in the second half. Minnesota will play hard as they always seem to do for Zimmer, but they will lose the turnover battle, and that will end up costing them the game. Seattle will finish off the first part of the season at 5-0 and head off into their bye week with plenty of confidence.
Prediction: Seahawks 38, Vikings 29
— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ScottWhittum.