It all comes down to this.
On a weekend where home teams aren’t faring well, the Minnesota Vikings have their chance to reverse the trend, just as they’ve done during the 2015 regular season.
For safety Harrison Smith, the return to the playoffs has seemed like a lifetime away. He was optimistic that he would be a postseason regular, but he has seen a coaching change and a retooling of the roster in his four seasons with the Vikings.
“I’m excited about getting back to the playoffs,” Smith said. “I only got there as rookie and we didn’t last long in that one. It seems like a long time ago and we’ve been building to get to this point ever since.”
In 2012, the Vikings’ starters included Christian Ponder, Percy Harvin, Michael Jenkins, Jerome Felton, Jerome Simpson and Charlie Johnson on offense and Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Letroy Guion, Jasper Brinkley, Erin Henderson, Antoine Winfield, Chris Cook and Jamarca Sanford on defense.
To say the Vikings have turned over the franchise in three years is an understatement. This Vikings team has nothing in common with that team other than a core of players whose talent has kept them as a key member of the organization. As Smith sees it, there is no comparison.
“You can’t compare teams from one year to another, much less one from 2012 to now,” Smith said. “I look at every season as being completely different because you always have people coming and going. This is the 2015 Vikings. We have had the best season we’ve had since I’ve been here and we earned the chance to play at home.”
Seattle comes into the cold with a pedigree. They’ve been to the Super Bowl the last two years. But, as Smith points out, what the Seahawks accomplished in the past has no bearing on the 2015 Seahawks. If they’re going to make it three times in a row, they’re going to have to do it on the road three times. As Smith sees it, the first test may be their last.
“They did a great job against us when we played them before, but that doesn’t mean anything now,” Smith said. “We’re coming into this game because we earned our way here. We learned a lot from that game and things have changed a lot since then. We’re ready for them.”
VIKINGS-SEAHAWKS BY THE NUMBERS
- Minnesota had the league’s 29th-ranked offense (4th rushing, 31st passing) and the 13th-ranked defense (17th rushing, 12th passing).
- Seattle has the fourth-ranked offense (3rd rushing, 20th passing) and the second-ranked defense (1st rushing, 2nd passing).
- The Vikings averaged 321 yards a game (183 passing, 138 rushing). The Seahawks averaged 379 yards a game (237 passing, 142 rushing).
- Minnesota allowed 344 yards a game (235 passing, 109 rushing). Seattle allowed 292 yards a game (210 passing, 82 rushing).
- The Seahawks tied for fifth in takeaway/giveaway ratio at plus-7 (23 takeaways, 16 giveaways). The Vikings were tied for 10th at plus-5 (22 takeaways, 17 giveaways).
- Only three teams had fewer giveaways than the Vikings – Seattle (17), Kansas City (15) and New England (14).
- Seattle was 16th in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on 27 of 49 possessions (55.1 percent). Minnesota was tied for 24th at 50 percent (22 touchdowns on 44 possessions).
- The Seahawks defense was third in the red zone, allowing touchdowns on just 16 of 38 opponent possessions (42.1 percent). The Vikings were fourth at 44.2 percent (19 TDs on 43 possessions).
- Only one team allowed fewer red zone possessions than Seattle (Denver with 37) and only one team allowed fewer touchdowns in the red zone (New York Jets with 14).
- The Seahawks were fourth in the league in third-down offense, converting on 59 of 213 chances (46.5 percent). The Vikings were 19th at 38.2 percent (76 of 199). The league average was 39.0 percent.
- Seattle was fourth in third-down defense, allowing conversions on just 67 of 195 opportunities (34.4 percent). Minnesota was fifth at 34.5 percent (71 of 206).
- The Vikings led the league in average starting position following kickoffs at the 25.0-yard line. Seattle was second with an average start at the 23.6-yard line. The league average was the 21.6-yard line.
- Both Teddy Bridgewater and Russell Wilson have just one 300-yard passing game.
- The Vikings have allowed two 300-yard passers this season. Seattle has allowed three.
- Minnesota has three 100-yard receiving games – two from Stefon Diggs and one from Kyle Rudolph. The Seahawks had six – three by Doug Baldwin and one each from Tyler Lockett, Jimmy Graham and Jermaine Kearse.
- Both Minnesota and Seattle allowed five 100-yard receivers during the season.
- Adrian Peterson had seven 100-yard rushing games, the most in the NFL. The Seahawks had five – three from Thomas Rawls, one from Marshawn Lynch and one from Christine Michael.
- The Vikings have allowed five 100-yard rushers, including one to Rawls in their first meeting. Seattle has yet to allow a 100-yard rusher this season.
- Bridgewater finished the season 21st in pass attempts (447), 21st in completions (292), ninth in completion percentage (65.3), 22nd in yards (3,231), tied for 26th in touchdown passes (14), 14th in interceptions (9) and 22nd in passer rating (88.7).
- Wilson finished tied for 17th in attempts (483), 15th in completions (329), third in completion percentage (68.1), 12th in yards (4,024), sixth in TD passes (34), tied for 12th in interceptions (8) and first in passer rating (110.1).
- Wilson was first in fourth-quarter passer rating at 114.8. Bridgewater was 23rd at 90.0.
- Wilson was second in third-down passer rating at 117.2. Bridgewater was eighth at 98.8.
- Peterson led the NFL with 1,485 rushing yards. Rawls led Seattle with 830, which placed him 16th in the league.
- Baldwin led the Seahawks with 78 receptions, which ranked him 24th in the league. Diggs led the Vikings with 52, which tied him from 63rd place.
- Baldwin finished with 1,069 receiving yards, which placed him 21st. Diggs led the Vikings with 720, which tied him for 51st.
- Baldwin tied for first in scoring among non-kickers with 84 points – 14 touchdowns. Peterson tied for 13th place with 66 points on 11 TDs.
- Blair Walsh finished fourth in scoring among kickers with 135 points. Steven Hauschka finished tied for eighth with 127 points.
- Both Walsh and Hauschka finished tied for eighth in touchbacks with 47.
- Peterson finished third in yards from scrimmage with 1,707 (1,485 rushing, 222 receiving). Baldwin led Seattle with 1,069 (all receiving) to finish in 38th place.
- Seattle punter Jon Ryan was 16th in punting average at 45.7 yards. Jeff Locke was dead last at 41.6 yards.
- Ryan was 29th in net punting average at 37.9 yards. Locke was 30th with a 37.8-yard net average.
- Lockett was 11th in punt return average at 9.6 yards. Marcus Sherels was 13th at 9.1 yards.
- Cordarrelle Patterson led the league in kickoff return average at 31.8 yards. Lockett finished eighth at 25.8 yards.
- Earl Thomas was tied for sixth in interceptions with five. Terence Newman led the Vikings with three picks, which tied him for 24th place.
- Everson Griffen finished tied for 12th in sacks with 10½. Seattle had two players in the top 20 – Michael Bennett tied for 15th with 10 sacks and Cliff Avril finished 20th with nine.