When the opportunity to converse with insightful editors of other team-oriented sites arises, SeahawkFootball.com will take full advantage. As crazy as it might sound, fans of other NFL teams are just as passionate for their club as the 12s are for the Seahawks. In a feature we'll call Speaking with the Enemy, we'll share five Questions and Answers with the editors from this week's opponent.
This week, we exchanged questions and answers with Tim Yotter, editor and publisher of VikingUpdate.com, Minnesota's affiliate on the Scout network.
Here are my questions and his answers:
1. What is the latest on the Minnesota Vikings' health? Will Adrian Peterson and Linval Joseph be suiting up, as expected?
There is very little doubt about that. The Vikings are expected to be at full strength, at least with the number of players that are suiting up on Sunday. I asked Mike Zimmer on Thursday morning if he would have to monitor the usage of Peterson given that lower back injuries can be tricky and he said, "No. It's playoffs." Zimmer also said Joseph didn't have the swelling in his toe after Wednesday's practice that he did following the NY Giants game. Each of them should be expected to play their normal roles.
2. Teddy Bridgewater was among the Vikings who struggled when these two clubs met up a month ago, but how has he responded since then? How has he fared in high-pressure situations thus far for the Vikings?
He had a very good three-game stretch before the season finale. He had a career high in yards against Arizona and followed that up with a career-high five touchdowns (four passing, one rushing) against the Chicago Bears. However, the season finale against the Green Bay Packers might have been the worst performance of his career. He threw a "boneheaded" - his word - left-handed interception and started the game off looking far too cautious. He also lost the ball before trying to hand off to Peterson and the Vikings were lucky Peterson was able to pounce on it before it became a turnover. He has generally been good when the pressure is on, but he wasn't against the Packers and will have to play much better against Seahawks.
3. The Seahawks have proven vulnerable to speedy receivers like Stefon Diggs in the past. How has the rookie has been able to emerge this season as the Vikings most productive pass-catcher?
After being inactive for the first three games, he was very impressive in his first four games, including yardage totals of 87, 129, 108 and 95. However, he hasn't broken past 70 yards in a game since then. Zimmer said defenses haven't approach him any differently, but coverages have sometimes dictated where the ball should go. The last two games, he has only put up 19 and 8 yards. Part of the change has been that Mike Wallace has been running more of Diggs' crossing routes than in the first half of the season, and the Vikings haven't had good enough protection to set up the deep passing game. I don't expect they will be able to get too many deep shots against the Seahawks.
4. The forecast calls for extremely cold temperatures on Sunday. Besides just a breakdown of the Vikings' wins and losses, how has Minnesota fared in cold weather situations this season? Has there been any noticeable impact on individuals or the team's performance?
There's cold and then there's subzero cold. The 2015 Vikings haven't really experienced the type of cold they will be facing Sunday. They have had games in the 20s and 30s and done well with them - handling Chicago and the Giants - but this is going to be a whole new level of cold. It could be subzero at kickoff with wind chills somewhere between 10- and 20-below. The wind is only supposed to be 5 to 10 MPH, and that is what Zimmer thinks would impact game flow the most. The one game that comes close to this was the Nov. 30, 2014 game against the Carolina Panthers, when the temp was 12 degrees and the wind chill was minus-7. The Vikings won 31-13 and were the last team to beat the Panthers in the regular season for more than a year. Bridgewater was 15 of 21 for 138 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 120.7 rating, pretty impressive since the Vikings only rushed for 92 yards and gave up 178 on the ground. However, they also scored on two blocked punts.
5. Who would you consider to be an x-factor in this game?
Linval Joseph is one of the biggest keys given his ability to stop the run. He didn't play in the first matchup and the Vikings felt if they would have kept the Seahawks in more third-and-long situations the game might have been different. That would allow Anthony Barr's biggest strength, blitzing the passer, to take hold. But the Vikings' biggest weakness has been their passing game and they can't rely solely on the running game, despite the weather.