If ever the Vikings needed to beat on a team with its running game, this is the game. Seattle is almost certain to duplicate Chicago's blitz-heavy game plan that helped the Bears upset the Vikings 24-14. The best answer for that, especially since Randy Moss still isn't 100 percent, is to hammer the ball straight ahead with hard-nosed RB Onterrio Smith.
Dallas rookie Julius Jones ran for 198 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries in the Cowboys' 43-39 victory over the Seahawks on Monday night. Look for the Vikings to call much more than the 15 running plays they called against the Bears.
Rookie RB Mewelde Moore finally will play after missing the last five weeks because of a high left ankle sprain. His primary job will be to return kickoffs, but the Vikings also might use him for some extra juice in the backfield.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper vs. Seattle's secondary — Culpepper threw three interceptions in the red zone in Sunday's loss at Chicago, including one on first-and-goal at the 3. Seattle leads the NFL in interceptions with 19. Cornerback Ken Lucas has five picks, and free safety Ken Hamlin and backup strong safety Michael Boulware have four apiece. Cornerback Marcus Trufant has three.
Vikings LCB Terrance Shaw vs. Seahawks WR Jerry Rice — Shaw gets the start because Antoine Winfield will be inactive with a high left ankle sprain. Shaw is a 10-year journeyman who was a member of New England's first Super Bowl championship three seasons ago. Rice, obviously, is the greatest receiver of all time. Yes, he's 42, but he also caught eight passes for 145 yards and one touchdown in last week's 42-39 loss to Dallas. However, Rice suffered a left quadriceps injury while running a deep pattern at practice Wednesday. He is expected to play, but could be limited.
Vikings MLB E.J. Henderson vs. RB Shaun Alexander — The Vikings are one of the worst teams in the league against the run. Although they improved last week against the Bears, the Vikings have had problems with misalignments and missed tackles. Alexander averaged 4.9 yards per carry and has scored 13 rushing touchdowns. Stopping him begins with Henderson but doesn't end there. The linemen need to fill the proper gaps and the safeties need to make quicker decisions and better tackles. Also, the pressure is on new starting CB Terrance Shaw. He replaces CB Antoine Winfield, the team's best tackler, and leading tackler.
SEAHAWKS GAME PLAN
The Seahawks need to crank up their offense and try to win a shootout. Seattle's defense is too banged up to keep the Vikings' powerful offense in check, particularly in the Metrodome. It's important for Seattle's offense to match the Vikings score for score. Falling behind would be disastrous because Seattle might be prone to getting blown out for the second time in three weeks.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Seahawks CB Ken Lucas vs. Vikings WR Randy Moss — Lucas won't be the only DB trying to defend Moss, but the matchup is relevant in light of recent history. Moss lit up Lucas last season during a 34-7 Vikings victory in the Metrodome. Lucas is a better player this time around, but Seattle's pass rush hasn't been helping out enough. Of course, Moss would win this matchup even with an in-his-prime Reggie White rushing the passer for Seattle.
Seahawks OLB Solomon Bates vs. the Vikings' OL — Bates has been starting only because of injury. He barely earned a roster spot as the third middle linebacker, but now he's starting on the outside. Minnesota is missing Pro Bowl C Matt Birk, but the Vikings' line should be able to expose Bates and the rest of Seattle's overmatched LB corps.
Seattle is extremely banged up on defense. Starting DT Cedric Woodard should be able to play, but it won't matter. The Seahawks are down too many players at the position to compete reasonably. Linebacker is another nightmare. There's an outside chance Chad Brown could be back, but his return from a knee injury is probably a week away. On offense, QB Matt Hasselbeck is feeling a lot better lately, giving Seattle its best chance to put some points on the board.