Tale of the Tape: Seahawks Face Hungry Vikings in Home Opener
The Seahawks had nearly every advantage a team could want heading into their game against the Titans this past week. Some of them were exploited. Many were not. Seattle has to hope for a similar uneven performance for the Minnesota Vikings this week as they play at home for the first time this season after losing two very close road games. The Vikings will be playing as if there season is on the line, because it probably is, and will have the weight of their fans behind them for the first time in over a year.
Seattle has advantages on offense, and some on defense, but not more so than they did against the Titans. The Vikings enjoy clear advantages with their dynamic pair of receivers against the Seahawks corners, and also have a dynamic runner. Their offensive line is suspect, and their defense is hemorrhaging yards.
The Seahawks have beat the Vikings every time they have played them in the Pete Carroll era, but they also had never lost a home game when leading by 15 points, so any comfort from the past should be set aside. This game is a coin flip, with the advantage going to the home team who is more desperate. Seattle could very well head to San Francisco next week 1-2 if they do not correct some glaring flaws that surfaced against Tennessee.
The way this works: Each offense will be pitted against the opposing defense and compared on an array of key statistical attributes based on their respective rank in the NFL. The tables that follow show the rank of each unit for each of these categories.
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Seahawks Offense vs Vikings Defense
Vikings key advantages on defense
It is shocking to see a defense be so thoroughly awful in every aspect except for third downs. It is one of the hardest downs to defend, but the Vikings seem to turn it on in those situations, likely aided by a very productive pass rush.
Danielle Hunter is back after a year off due to injury, and already has four sacks. He gives the Vikings something the Titans and Colts did not have, an elite edge rusher. Minnesota also has some other talented linemen like Sheldon Richardson, Michael Pierce, Dalvin Tomlinson, Stephen Weatherly, and Everson Griffen.
The Seahawks offensive line took a big step back this past week, both in run blocking and pass protection. A terrible Titans line looked good. A good Vikings line playing at home could be a big problem.
Seattle was terrible running the ball against Tennessee, and the Vikings are pretty well equipped to slow the run again, with the line and players like linebacker Eric Kendricks, and safeties Harrison Smith and Xavier Woods.
Seahawks key advantages on offense
The Vikings cornerback play has been terrible. Patrick Peterson, Mackensie Alexander, and Bashaud Breeland have been beat repeatedly. It would be a big deal if Dee Eskridge could return this week after missing time with a concussion. His presence makes the offense more explosive and difficult to contain.
DK Metcalf has been a long ways from the player Seahawks fans were anticipating heading into this season. This would be a great time to show up and play the role of number one receiver. Tyler Lockett has been terrific, as he often is to start seasons, and he has had a number of good games against the Vikings in the past.
Chris Carson and the run game was great in the opener, but was stuck in mud last week. You know the Seahawks will run the ball, so their ability to do so productively could very well determine the outcome of this game.
Seattle is not a great third down team and the Vikings defense is, which makes early down running efficiency that much more critical.
Vikings Offense vs Seahawks Defense
Vikings key advantages on offense
The symmetry between the Vikings offense and defense is uncanny. Terrific in almost all aspects, the Vikings struggle mightily on third downs. Part of their problem has been protecting the quarterback.
Kirk Cousins has been efficient and productive through two games. He has yet to throw an interception and has connected on 5 touchdowns. He has two elite receivers in Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson, who are unlikely to drop the passes Julio Jones and AJ Brown did a week ago.
Thielen has three touchdowns already and Jefferson is tops on the team in targets, but rookie K.J. Osborn leads the team in receiving yards, averaging 83.5 per game.
The only way the Seahawks will slow the Titans pass attack is with a healthy pass rush or a stubborn Minnesota commitment to the run game should that aspect of their game struggle.
Dalvin Cook is one of the best backs in the NFL, but did leave the game last week with an ankle injury. He returned, but then had to leave again. Seattle has generally defended him pretty well, but that does not mean they will this week.
Seahawks key advantages on defense
Left tackle Rashod Hill and center Garrett Bradbury have been liabilities in pass blocking this year. Left guard Ezra Cleveland has been suspect as well. It is time for Carlos Dunlap to make his presence felt, and for Alton Robinson to start getting more of Benson Mayowa’s snaps.
Seattle has been using a heavy rotation on the defensive line, which can be great for keeping guys fresh throughout the game, but was exploited by the Titans. Instead of allowing Seattle to rotate in their pass rushers, Tennessee got to the line quickly and kept Seattle in their base defense with three defensive tackles on the field.
The Seahawks desire to stop the run is impacting their ability to rush the passer. They have two different packages that are tailored to those different situations instead of a personnel group who can do both. That will be something to monitor as the season progresses.
Minnesota has a kicker who is perfect from beyond 50 yards with three 50+ yard field goals already. Unfortunately, he has missed his only kick inside of 50 yards that would have won the game in Arizona.
There is an emerging issue to watch for Seattle in the return game as both Freddie Swain and DeeJay Dallas have been pretty terrible so far. This was a strength last season. Michael Dickson had a rough game against the Titans and needs to do better when forced into action.