The Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks will battle in what has amounted to a must-win for one franchise. And a pivotal game for another.
The Vikings enter the game 0-2, fresh off heartbreak thanks to their kicking woes yet again. The Seahawks dropped an overtime game to Tennessee and cannot afford to enter divisional play with a 1-2 record.
Vikings vs. Seahawks: 6 rounds for NFC contention
In what is expected to be a hard-fought, multi-round battle, let’s take a look at some of the biggest storylines.
Round 1: Minnesota humming offensively
The Vikings are 0-2 to start the season despite playing well offensively. Kirk Cousins is averaging nearly 300 yards per game. He just passed Peyton Manning and Steve Young for consecutive games with a 90.0+ passer rating at 16.
That streak is second-longest in NFL history. Cousins has completed 58/81 for 595 yards and 5 touchdowns to start the year. He’s played turnover-free football through the air, taking care of the ball with no interceptions through two games.
RB Dalvin Cook is fourth in the NFL with 192 rushing yards, having chipped in with another 60 yards through the air. The WR trio of K.J. Osborn, Justin Jefferson, and Adam Thielen has hauled in 38 receptions for 434 yards and all 5 of Cousins’ touchdowns.
Round (0-) 2: The Vikings are 0-2, again
For the second consecutive season, the Vikings have started the year 0-2. Except for last year, Minnesota hardly played good football in those first two games. This year, however, has been much different.
The Vikings have been in a position to win each of their outings, dropping both by a combined margin of 4 points. When asked about the similarity to the start of the season, Cousins understands how it works, regardless of how the team played.
“Winning and losing is what it’s really all about,” Cousins said. “It’s how you’re measured, so we got to win.”
Round 3: Can Tyler Lockett make it 3-for-3?
We’re at the point of the season where players will continue to make a name for themselves or start to fizzle out. Everyone in the world knows that Tyler Lockett is a player who should maintain his high level of play to start the year. And if you didn’t know that, pay attention.
Starting the year on fire, Lockett has made the PFN Team of the Week after each performance this season. He is currently second in the league with 278 yards through the air, hauling in 100 yards in Week 1 and 178 a week ago.
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer knows they’ve got a challenge ahead of them on Sunday.
“Obviously, (Lockett’s) got great speed,” Zimmer said. “He’s a really good double-move guy.”
But that’s not all they have to contend with.
“You can’t pay all your attention to Lockett because they have (DK) Metcalf on the other side, typically,” Zimmer continued. “And then Russell (Wilson) can buy some time in the pocket.”
Round 4 (x5): Can Bobby Wagner repeat his 20-tackle performance?
Future Hall of Fame linebacker Bobby Wagner put together a defensive performance for the ages last week. He recorded 20 combined tackles for the first time in his career. It also marked the first time a linebacker has recorded 20+ tackles in a game since Kwon Alexander did it in 2016.
If Wagner were able to repeat such a performance, either against the Vikings or any other time season, it would be historic. Only London Fletcher, Zach Thomas, and Derrick Brooks have recorded multiple games with 20 or more tackles in their careers — neither of them has done it in the same season.
Wagner is currently 24th on the all-time list of combined tackles and more than 100 ahead of next place on the active list. He can pass Ronde Barber and Darryl Talley for 22nd all-time with just 6 combined tackles.
Round 5: Russell Wilson just wins
With another regular-season win, Seahawks QB Russell Wilson can join some illustrious company. Sitting at 99 wins in the regular season, Wilson can join Hall of Fame QB Peyton Manning as the only 2 quarterbacks in league history with 100 or more regular-season wins in their first 10 seasons.
Manning got his 100th victory in Week 11 of the 2007 season against the Kansas City Chiefs after two attempts. Seahawks fans will hope Wilson can avoid Manning’s two ill-fated attempts for No. 100 as he dropped games against New England and San Diego after reaching 99 victories.
Wilson has the chance to set a new record for most regular-season wins in a quarterback’s first 10 seasons. Manning finished his 10th season with 105 victories en route to 186 regular-season wins.
Round 6: Mike Zimmer vs. Pete Carroll
For the sixth time as head coaches, Mike Zimmer and Pete Carroll will square off. The longtime Seattle head coach is 5-0 lifetime against Zimmer and 8-1 lifetime against the Vikings.
Zimmer does own a victory, if you want to call it that, as Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator when Seattle hosted the Bengals in 2011. For our sake here, though, we’re not going to count that.
When asked about the budding “rivalry” between the elder coaches, Zimmer played it cool.
“Each game is different,” Zimmer said when asked if it was frustrating to lose to the same franchise. “You know, we miss a field goal in the playoff game. We had ’em fourth and 10 last year, and fourth and 6 I believe, and they convert twice. So, it’s just football.”
Recent Vikings/Seahawks history suggests a tight battle
That’s a very nonchalant way of discussing heartbreaking losses for Minnesota’s fan base.
The Vikings have lost three of their last five meetings with Seattle by one possession, two of those by a mere 1 point. The two coaches’ familiarity with one another certainly has something to do with these results, as does the approach for the game from Zimmer.
“Pete’s a lot like I am,” Zimmer said. “He likes to play good defense and, well, he’s a lot more energetic than I am. Both of us want to be disciplined, we want to do things the right way, all that. But at the end of the day, the offensive coordinator’s calling the plays, the defensive coordinator’s calling the plays, that’s important.”
Zimmer: “Pete will go for it on fourth down, he’s not afraid to do that.”
Will Zimmer finally break the Carroll Curse? Maybe he should take a lesson from his nemesis and go for it on fourth down himself.
Let’s face it, they’re better off not attempting a field goal after all, aren’t they?