Friday, November 2, 2012

Vikings @ Seahawks: This One Won't Be Close

My Seahawks "Spidey Sense" was tingling last week. It felt like a loss was coming in a game the team should win. The offense played better than expected, but the defense could not get off the field, and wound up surrendering a season-high 28 points. This week comes with a different opponent, but an even stronger sense of the result. The Minnesota Vikings are a quality opponent. Their 5-3 record is not a mirage. It will not matter on Sunday. Seattle is going to win this one going away.

There are plenty of articles on this site that break down statistical trends that make one outcome more likely than another. This will not be one of them. The same gut instinct that told me the Seahawks would beat the Saints two years ago in the playoffs is feeling equally cocky today. That gut was largely absent in games against the Cowboys, Packers, Panthers, Patriots, and 49ers games. The results of those games have helped to calibrate expectations for this Sunday.

Christian Ponder and Percy Harvin are good, but they are not as good as many of the QB/WR combinations the Seahawks have faced this year. The thing that they are best at, like underneath routes and WR screens have been problematic for the Seahawks defense the last few weeks. What people have misunderstood is that this defense is more than capable of covering those plays, but has been focused on stopping explosive plays. Make no mistake about it, the Seahawks will be leaning way forward this week to crush those types of plays. Ponder will need to be able to beat the secondary over the top, and that's just not their game.

Adrian Peterson is a monster, but not on Sunday. Red Bryant, Brandon Mebane, Alan Branch and Chris Clemons will be amped, and gearing up to stone the run. Seattle has slipped in their run defense the past few weeks, but an opponent like Peterson is exactly the type of motivation the players need to find their footing again.

The biggest reason the Seahawks will win by a large margin on Sunday will be turnovers. A number of factors will lead to a big takeaway day for the Seahawks on Sunday. Pass pressure has lagged the last few weeks. Lost in all the talk about Seattle's struggles on 3rd and long is that Seattle is forcing a lot of 3rd and long situations. Seattle coaches feel more confident in their pass rush and the team's overall resiliency when playing at home. These things all point to a far more aggressive Seahawks defense on Sunday. Look for blitzes we have not seen all season. Expect risks that Pete Carroll has generally avoided. This team has been so focused on being assignment-correct, that they have forgotten what it feels like to relentlessly attack. They will remember that feeling on Sunday, and that feeling will feed on itself.

None of that factors in an offense that has scored more than 20 points two times in the last three games, after doing it only once in the first five. Are their injuries at receiver? Yep. They are not to Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, Zach Miller, or Anthony McCoy. These are the primary targets for Wilson anyway. With it looking like Doug Baldwin will "warrior" himself back into the lineup after missing just one week with a high ankle sprain, there will be options in the passing game. Wilson needs to focus on protecting the ball. He should have some short fields to work with if the defense does what it should on Sunday.

People jumping off the defense's bandwagon will feel a little foolish after seeing what is going to happen the next two weeks. If being the 3rd-best scoring defense in the NFL is this team's "low point," I will take it. They have been doing it the hard way, with no takeaways, waning pass pressure, and 3rd down struggles. Sunday we get to see what they look like when that changes.

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