Minnesota Vikings (3-2) at Seattle Seahawks (4-1)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 ET
TV: FOX, Ron Pitts, Terry Donahue
SERIES: 10th meeting. The Seahawks lead the series 6-3. This will mark the sixth time in franchise history the Vikings have played at Seattle. Minnesota's only win in Seattle came in 1990 at the Kingdome. The teams met for the first time in 1976 when Seattle was an expansion team. The Vikings won that game 27-21 at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minn. Seattle then won the next three meetings.
2006 RANKINGS: Vikings: offense 12th (17th rush, 9th pass); defense 5th (4th rush, 16th pass). Seahawks: offense 20th (15th rush, 19th pass); defense 15th (6th rush, 28th pass)
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Vikings' first priority has to be to survive the opening stanza. The Seahawks have outscored their opponents 56-6 through the first three quarters at home this season, with Seattle capitalizing on the penalties and errors opposing offenses routinely struggle from in deafening Qwest Field. The crowd should be especially pumped with the return of LG Steve Hutchinson, who signed a controversial offseason deal with the Vikings. But Minnesota can also take advantage of the hole Hutchinson left. The Vikings allow just 74.4 rushing yards per game while the Seahawks' offensive line has been shaky and doesn't have injured RB Shaun Alexander to block for. What Minnesota does have to account for is Seattle's three- and four-receiver sets with WR Deion Branch having a bigger impact on a weekly basis as he learns the complex offense. With the Vikings having scored only one more touchdown on offense (four) than on defense (three), Minnesota can't afford to get caught up in a shootout.
Vikings: Have won three of their past four games immediately following a bye week. ... Has not allowed 20 or more points in six consecutive games.
Seahawks: Have outscored opponents 352-190 during 12-game home winning streak. ... Branch's teams are 13-2 when he catches at least one touchdown pass.
--LB Ben Leber (sprained left knee) remains listed as probable on the injury report and will play Sunday. He has not missed any practice time this week.
--QB Tarvaris Jackson (right knee) is listed as probable and will be back in his role as the emergency quarterback Sunday.
--Special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro said receivers Bethel Johnson and Troy Williamson have both been used on kick returns in practice this week. Ferraro did not commit to which one will be used on returns Sunday. Johnson also is getting a look on punt returns.
--Backup linebackers Jason Glenn and Heath Farwell are tied for the Vikings' team lead with six special teams tackles apiece.
--CB Antoine Winfield leads the Vikings with six passes broken up this season. Safety Darren Sharper is second with four and defensive tackle Kevin Williams is third with three.
--WR Bobby Engram missed practice again Thursday, but doctors are confident he'll have a shot at playing next week. He has a thyroid condition that appears to be viral in nature. Medication should take care of the problem.
--DE Joe Tafoya missed practice again Thursday with a knee injury that could cause him to miss the Minnesota game on Sunday.
--RB Shaun Alexander missed practice again Thursday with a foot injury that will cause him to miss the Minnesota game on Sunday.
--LG Floyd Womack missed practice again Thursday with a knee injury that will cause him to miss the Minnesota game on Sunday.
--TE Jerramy Stevens practiced again Thursday. Stevens again appears ready to make an impact in his first game back following knee surgery, but he was a last-minute scratch from the lineup last week. He will probably play Sunday if his surgically repaired knee feels right Friday.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
The Vikings don't have to prepare to face injured Pro Bowl running back Shaun Alexander this week as they get ready to play Seattle on Sunday, but they are gearing up for the crowd noise at Qwest Field. Minnesota is used to having the noise advantage at the Metrodome, but the volume will work against them and their offense Sunday. The Seahawks don't play in a domed stadium, but the 67,000-seat venue is partially covered and retains plenty of noise.
While this will be a concern for coach Brad Childress, he is not following the lead of many coaches and having artificial noise piped in during his team's practices this week.
"Most of the time it ends with coaches (having) a headache and players with a headache and bad vocal chords and the whole deal," Childress said. "You have to work on the silent count. And it's amazing if you make something happen, how things tend to settle down a little bit."
The Vikings are familiar with employing a silent count having used it at times in a season-opening 19-16 victory at Washington. The announced crowd of 90,608 at FedEx Field that night made plenty of noise but that stadium has no covering.
Quarterback Brad Johnson knows it will be a difficult situation and that the Vikings will have to work hard to avoid false-start penalties. This will be a big test for second-year right tackle Marcus Johnson, who has had problems with moving before the snap in the past.
"Seattle is a little bit different scenario," Brad Johnson said. "I think the Rolling Stones were there and they said the games are a little bit louder than the Rolling Stones. So we'll have to deal with that."
At this time last week, the Seahawks were anxious to get tight end Jerramy Stevens back in the offense. Stevens had practiced all week, and coach Mike Holmgren projected up to 30 snaps for his former first-round draft choice. Stevens was coming off his second knee surgery of the year, but all signs pointed to him playing against the Rams.
Didn't happen. Stevens didn't feel right Saturday night, and Holmgren made him inactive the next day.
A similar scenario has played out this week. Stevens has practiced every day, including Thursday. He has not even been listed on the injury report, same as last week. But there are no guarantees that the 6-7, 255-pound tight end will play against the Vikings on Sunday.
Much will depend on how Stevens feels Friday.
The offense isn't the same without Stevens because backup Itula Mili is getting older and lacks the ability to cause matchup problems downfield. Mili has also had some injuries. The other tight end, Will Heller, is not the same kind of athlete. Heller is better as a blocker than receiver, but he has caught every pass thrown his way -- all three of them -- including one for a touchdown.
The injury situation at tight end has all but eliminated two-tight end sets from Holmgren's offense. The team has run only 16 plays with two tight ends this season, leading to more four-receiver sets and less productivity in the running game.