The Vikings lucked out earlier this season when Washington running back Clinton Portis was limited by a shoulder injury in the first game and Carolina receiver Steve Smith was sidelined because of a hamstring injury in the second.
But Minnesota might be catching its biggest break yet Sunday at Seattle as Seahawks running back and reigning NFL MVP Shaun Alexander is expected to sit out. Alexander, who broke his left foot in September, originally planned on returning for this game.
Instead, the Vikings' defense, ranked fourth in the NFL against the rush, will face Maurice Morris. Morris is no slouch, but he also isn't Alexander. It also won't hurt the Vikings that Seattle left guard Floyd (Pork Chop) Womack is out.
While the Vikings certainly can't ignore the run game, they can put a broader focus on the Seahawks' passing attack and slowing an offense that rallied for a 30-28 victory over St. Louis last Sunday.
Defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin has shown a variety of different and sometimes unexpected looks and that likely will be the case in Seattle. The Vikings run a version of the West Coast offense — although not as pure as the Seahawks — so Tomlin is very familiar with the schemes.
Exactly what defense Seattle will see from Tomlin is anyone's guess.
The Vikings offense, meanwhile, continues to look to get on track, having scored only four touchdowns this season. The defense has accounted for three touchdowns.
Running back Chester Taylor rushed for 123 yards on 26 carries against Detroit. Seattle's rushing defense, however, has been very effective this season and ranks sixth in the NFL.
The area where the Vikings might be able to exploit Seattle is in the passing game. The Seahawks rank near the bottom of the league against the pass and this might be a good game for the Vikings to try to get their aerial attack on track.
The Seahawks need to turn their defense loose and take advantage of the Vikings' communication problems up front. Minnesota has played things very close to the vest offensively, diminishing chances for big plays downfield. The Seahawks will have crowd noise on their side, making life tough on the Vikings' offensive line. LB Julian Peterson and DE Bryce Fisher should be able to get home in this game.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
With the Vikings having nearly the entire bye week off, many players were able to rest injuries. This included safety Darren Sharper (quadriceps), cornerback Antoine Winfield (quadriceps) and strongside linebacker Ben Leber (left knee). All were able to play against Detroit in the Vikings' final game before the bye and should be moving that much better on Sunday in Seattle.
The injury report is clear-cut for Seattle, but the availability of TE Jerramy Stevens remains a small mystery. Stevens practiced all last week, only to become a last-minute scratch because his knee wasn't feeling right. All signs point to Stevens playing in this game, but if the knee wasn't feeling right last week, perhaps he isn't ready to stretch the field just yet.