In a game that features numerous intriguing matchups, the Vikings biggest priority will be to rebound from the St. Louis game, when they allowed eight sacks. Get all the showdown information here.
VIKINGS GAME PLAN
Priority No. 1: Protect the quarterback.
Yes, the Vikings need to stop RB Shaun Alexander
so they can pressure QB Matt Hasselbeck
. But the real pressure is on the NFL's No. 1-ranked offense.
It's time for the Vikings to act like they have the No. 1 offense. Not like the timid team that had six false starts and gave up eight sacks in last week's 48-17 loss at St. Louis.
Seattle is 14th in sacks per pass play. The Seahawks have 27 sacks, only four fewer than St. Louis.
The Vikings are preparing for another heavy dose of blitzes this week. They couldn't handle the blitz last week. Seattle would be crazy not to duplicate St. Louis' blitz packages until the Vikings prove they can handle them.
The Vikings will dress an extra offensive lineman to rotate into the line if the protection problems or dumb penalties resurface. Also look for QB Daunte Culpepper
to run more quarterback draws.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
Vikings running backs against S Reggie Tongue
and LB Chad Brown
. Tongue, a 6-foot, 204-pounder, has 7.5 career sacks, including two this season. St. Louis got two sacks off of safety blitzes against the Vikings last week. Expect Brown to blitz as well. Brown is tied for the Seahawks' team lead with five sacks. Running back Moe Williams
is the team's best pass blocker, but he is playing less since the return of Michael Bennett
. Williams still plays in passing situations, but St. Louis surprised the Vikings by blitzing in running situations as well as passing situations.
Vikings right tackle Mike Rosenthal against DEs Chike Okeafor and Brandon Mitchell. Rosenthal had three false starts and gave up four sacks to Leonard Little last week at St. Louis. His confidence is low, but don't expect Seattle to feel sorry for him. Okeafor is tied with Brown for the team lead in sacks with five. Mitchell has two. The Vikings won't be afraid to turn to backup OL Everett Lindsay if necessary.
Vikings interior offensive line against DT John Randle. Randle has four sacks and will be pumped up for his first trip to the Metrodome since his 11-year career with the Vikings came to an end following the 2000 season. Randle, 35, made the Pro Bowl six times as a Viking. He's 35, but he has 22 sacks and one Pro Bowl appearance since leaving the Vikings. C Matt Birk, LG Chris Liwienski and RG David Dixon will need to communicate and help each other stop Randle's relentless attack.
Vikings pass rush against Seattle's pass protection. The St. Louis game was another example of how the Vikings haven't done anything to disrupt a rhythm passing attack. They sacked Rams QB Marc Bulger only once. They hurried him only one other time. Seattle has given up 35 sacks and rank 28th in the NFL in sacks allowed per play. LB Nick Rogers will make his second consecutive start. He might blitz more. Also look for nickel rusher Lance Johnstone to play more. He has a team-high seven sacks.
Vikings MLBs Greg Biekert and E.J. Henderson against RB Shaun Alexander. Alexander tied an NFL record with five first-half touchdowns in last year's 48-23 rout of the Vikings at Seattle. He has 1,034 yards, nine touchdowns and a 4.2-yard average rushing, and has caught 35 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns. Biekert never was fast, but he's even a step slower this season. That's why rookie E.J. Henderson took over in the nickel defense, and why he will begin rotating with Biekert in the base defense this week. If Seattle uses Alexander as a consistent receiving threat, look for Henderson to be the one who covers him.
Vikings secondary against QB Matt Hasselbeck. Hasselbeck is quietly an MVP contender. He is completing 61.4 percent of his passes for 2,883 yards, 22 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Hasselbeck is the No. 2-rated QB in the NFC behind Daunte Culpepper. The Vikings have an NFL-high 23 interceptions, 15 by safeties Corey Chavous (eight) and Brian Russell (seven).
Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper against the Seattle defense. Culpepper might be the top-ranked quarterback in the conference, but he has lost six of 12 fumbles and thrown five of his eight interceptions in the past three weeks. Seattle ranks fifth in the NFC with 25 takeaways, including 14 interceptions. S Reggie Tongue has a team-high four interceptions.
WR Randy Moss against the Seattle secondary. If Seattle blitzes the way St. Louis did, Moss will be single covered. The Vikings had seen a lot of Cover 2 before last week. The Rams rushed their safeties a lot, which helped Moss catch 10 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown. But the Vikings really weren't able to make the Rams pay for the blitz. Moss' longest reception was 23 yards.
INJURY IMPACT: LB Chris Claiborne, who was inactive against the Rams because of a sore Achilles' tendon, seems to be rejuvenated by the week off. With multiple nagging injuries, he needed some time away from practice and a game. He will help the defense this week.
TE Jim Kleinsasser, who suffered a hip pointer against the Rams, will be fine. He has always played through aggravating injuries.
LB Raonall Smith, inactive for eight of the past nine games because of a hamstring injury, is ready to play on special teams. He will give special teams leading tackler E.J. Henderson a break on some special teams plays. That's helpful because Henderson's role at MLB is being expanded.
WR D'Wayne Bates, inactive for the past two games because of a hamstring injury, should start Sunday. The Vikings can use his experienced route running.
SEAHAWKS GAME PLAN
The way the Seahawks offense is clicking, the approach likely will be to simply outgun the Vikings. Even if Culpepper and Moss put up big numbers for the Vikes, the Seattle offense, which has been increasingly more diverse and versatile, should be able to match them score for score.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Vikings WR Randy Moss vs. Seattle CBs Marcus Trufant, Ken Lucas and Shawn Springs. There's been some competition among this trio for starting spots, with the veteran Springs starting on the bench last week. It could be a huge challenge for the rookie Trufant to be the main defender against Moss, but that could turn out to be the case.
INJURY IMPACT: Back-up tackle Jerry Wunsch (ankle) is the biggest concern. Everybody else on the injured list is expected to be back and at full steam. TE Itula Mili suffered a mild concussion last week but is expected to be ready for the Vikings.