The temperature in Minneapolis is expected to be 11 degrees come game time on Sunday. It will also be the first time the Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings face each other in the playoffs.
Of course, not every team is coming in whole, with Seattle waiting to confirm the status of three Pro Bowlers, and NFL rushing leader Adrian Peterson dealing with back issues for Minnesota.
Vegas pegs the Seahawks as the favorites by as many as 6.5 points, and after tearing through their competition the way they did the last six games or so, it’s easy to see why. Also, when the two teams played each other in Minnesota Dec. 6, Seattle dominated the Vikings to the tune of 38-7.
This time should be different, however. Here are some things to consider for each team heading into Wild Card weekend.
Maintaining a balanced attack
Thomas Rawls, who stepped in quite nicely for Marshawn Lynch, is out. Lynch, who returned to practice Monday, is not a sure thing for the game on Sunday either. In the three games since Rawls has been out due to a broken ankle, the Seattle running backs have been inconsistent. And Week 16’s loss to the Rams showed the Seahawks’ vulnerability when forced to throw more than 35 times.
Russell Wilson has been at a Hall of Fame level since about Week 10, but Seattle’s running backs must at least keep Minnesota honest to ensure he maintains that level Sunday.
Will Marshawn Lynch be Beast Mode when/if he comes back?
Lynch came back to the Seahawks facility Monday after missing seven weeks after undergoing abdomen surgery. Wednesday will be his first practice with the team since, and it begs the question: If he’s ready to go, will he be at his 2014 or 2015 self?
In 2015 Lynch looked less agile and as a result averaged 3.8 yards per carry, his lowest average since 2010.
Still he poses a challenge for Minnesota as he is the motor for Seattle’s offense when he’s out there and must be game planned for regardless.