What: NFC West vs. NFC North battle
When: December 12th, 10 am (PST)
Where: Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Minneapolis, MN
Vikings Key Players:
QB Dante Culpepper: Even with the amazing talents around him, Culpepper is still the engine that makes this engine run. For quarterbacks his athleticism is matched only by Michael Vick and he is one of the biggest men ever to play the position. His size (6'4", 270 lbs) allows him to stand strong in the pocket in the face of a rush and he has improved his decision-making over his five-plus seasons. His 70% completion rate is amazing considering the amount of intermediate and long passes he throws and his 3:1 touchdown to interception ratio (30 TDs, 10 interceptions) is the best of his career. With the weapons he has around him, he can be the most dangerous passer in the league.
WR Randy Moss: Moss is the most dangerous wideout in the league when he is healthy. Moss' bum hamstring has limited his effectiveness but he has still managed to garner 9 touchdowns on 34 receptions. According to head coach Mike Tice he still has "dead legs" from his three week absence from the lineup and five weeks of no practice. He has eight receptions from the last two games since he has returned and he should be in "game shape" in time for the playoffs. If he gets behind you, Culpepper has no problem finding him and the play will likely end with him spiking the ball in the endzone.
DT Kevin Williams: The second-year player out of Oklahoma State has made his presence felt in his sophomore year. He leads all defensive tackles with nine sacks and he has also recorded at least five tackles in nine of the team's twelve games. He is quick and plays the run equally well. He is more than likely headed to Honolulu the second week of February.
MLB E.J. Henderson: After an unremarkable rookie season when he backed up veteran Greg Biekert and played special teams, he has burst on to the scene by ranking second on the team with 66 tackles. He is a sure-tackler who still needs to improve in coverage. He plays well in space and sheds blocks well. He still takes some bad angles but he has improved in almost every area of deficiency that he has.
Moss and Nate Burleson vs. Seahawks CBs Ken Lucas and Marcus Trufant: Moss and company made Lucas and Trufant look foolish last season catching three long touchdowns and generally running circles around the two young corners. Even with the lack of a pass-rush, Lucas and Trufant have help up well in coverage this season and both have sticky fingers if they have the chance to make a play on the ball. With Moss hobbled the Hawks may roll their coverages to Burleson's side hoping to keep him from beating them and taking away part of the Vikings' potent offense. That chore is easier said than done.
Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck vs. Vikings secondary: CB Antoine Winfield, signed in the offseason through free agency, has been a lock-down corner for the Vikings and his loss for the next three weeks to a high ankle sprain is big. Starting in his place will be Terrence Shaw, who isn't as adept at single-coverage as Winfield. Hasselbeck may have finally had his breakout game against the Cowboys, passing for 414 yards and three touchdowns and the Seahawks may need him to be just as good to keep up with the high-octane Vikings offense. The Viking secondary are not ball-hawks, a big change from last season when they led the NFC and finished second in the NFL with 28. They only have five so far this season and with Winfield owning three of those, the Hawks may have a good shot at making some things happen in the passing game.
Seahawks LBs vs. Vikings RB Onterrio Smith: Even though he missed four games on a substance-abuse violation, Smith still leads the team with 101 carries for 477 yards and one touchdown. He is a great inside runner and he has speed to get to the corner. If the Hawks cannot contain him it could be a long day with Culpepper using play-action. The Seahawks linebackers have struggled to make plays and with their best two (Chad Brown and Anthony Simmons) out with injuries, they surrendered 198 yards and three touchdowns to a rookie running back last week. Playmaking will again fall to rookie MLB Niko Koutouvides and young OLBs Isaiah Kacyvenski and Solomon Bates and with a depleted front-four due to injury (see below) it could again be a very long day.
Seahawks defensive line vs. Vikings offensive line: The Vikings' line is huge, averaging 6'5" and 331 pounds across the line. They pass-block better than they run-block but they are adept at both. The best player along the line is LT Bryant McKinnie. He is huge (6'8", 350 lbs) and a great athlete. His footwork and wingspan negate both bull-rushers and speed-rushers. DTs Rocky Bernard and Marcus Tubbs are both out with injuries and DT Cedric Woodard is questionable. That leaves Rashad Moore and two DEs who can play some tackle as the players who will see lots of time on the inside this week. Look for line coach Duane Board to run stunts and twists hoping to clog the running lanes against the behemoths that man the middle of the Vikings line.
News and Notes: Seahawks lead the series 5-3, but the Vikings won the last meeting 34-7 at the Metrodome last season; Vikings head coach Mike Tice played for the Seahawks for nine seasons (81-88, 90-91); Both Seattle and St. Louis' remaining opponents are a collective 29-19 (.604), and both teams have consecutive road games before returning home for the final two games of the season; Vikings rank 7th in total offense and 22nd in total defense; Seahawks rank 10th in total offense and 20th in total defense.
QUESTIONABLE: S Terreal Bierria (back); LB Tracy White (hamstring); DT Cedric Woodard (knee)
DOUBTFUL: LB Chad Brown (knee); CB Bobby Taylor (knee)
OUT: DT Rocky Bernard (knee); DT Marcus Tubbs (ankle)
DOUBTFUL: LB Raonall Smith (concussion); CB Antoine Winfield (ankle)
OUT: C Matt Birk (abdomen)
Prediction: Vikings 35 – Seahawks 27
.NET Reporter Scott
Eklund writes for Seahawks.NET every week. Feel free to contact him at email@example.com.
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