NFC Wild Card Contenders face off on Monday night to conclude Week 14
The Seattle Seahawks saw any hopes of winning the NFC West evaporate when the division-rival Los Angeles Rams opened the season 8-0. The Seahawks’ playoff chances also appeared to take a major hit after back-to-back losses to both Los Angeles teams, but they have bounced back and carry a three-game winning streak into Monday night’s contest against the visiting Minnesota Vikings.
Seattle posted three-point victories over Green Bay and Carolina before routing San Francisco last week to vault into the fifth playoff spot in the NFC – one-half game ahead of Minnesota. “We need tough matchups with teams that really challenge us in many ways, and this is one of them, for sure,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told reporters of facing the Vikings. “So we’ve got to get it cranked up, have a good week and get ready to go for a big opportunity on Monday night.” Minnesota owns a one-half game lead over three teams for the last postseason berth after losing at New England 24-10 last weekend and now must fly to the opposite coast to face resurgent Seattle. “It comes down to other teams are in the hunt, other teams are fighting for their division title and whoever has the best four-game stretch,” Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins told reporters. “It doesn’t really matter what happened before.”
TV: 8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Seahawks -3. O/U: 45.5
ABOUT THE VIKINGS (6-5-1): Minnesota has alternated losses and wins over its last five games, a stretch during which Cousins has thrown nine touchdown passes against six interceptions. Running back Dalvin Cook was effective against the Patriots, picking up 84 yards on nine carries, but he has not had more than 10 rushing attempts since the season opener as the Vikings continue to struggle to find balance in their offense. Wide receiver Adam Thielen has registered nine 100-yard performances and just as many touchdowns, but he was held under 30 yards for the second time in the last four games by New England. Defensive pressure is critical for Minnesota, which is 6-1-1 when it notches at least three sacks and 0-4 when it fails to record three.
ABOUT THE SEAHAWKS (7-5): Unlike Minnesota, the running game is a point of emphasis for Seattle, which features the top-ranked attack with an average of 148.8 yards and at least 32 rushes in eight of its last 10 games. “Because it’s the best way to not screw it up,” Carroll said. “That’s why the turnover issue is of paramount importance to us. It’s the most important thing that we taught.” Quarterback Russell Wilson is averaging only 226.4 yards passing but usually dials it up late in the season, and this year is no exception – he has 11 touchdown passes and zero interceptions over his last four contests. Linemen Frank Clark and Jarran Reed have combined for 16.5 sacks to lead a unit ranked ninth in scoring defense (21.6 points).
1. Seattle has won each of the last four matchups, including a 10-9 playoff victory in January 2016.
2. Thielen, who has made a league-high 98 catches, has recorded 48 receptions and five TDs in six road games.
3. Wilson has a 142.0 passer rating with eight TDs and zero interceptions in three career matchups versus Minnesota.