The Monday Night Football matchup between the NFC heavyweight Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks, carries significant playoff implications after the San Francisco 49ers lost Sunday.
The Seahawks (9-2) enter the game just one-half game behind the 49ers, while the Vikings (8-3) are well within striking distance. Playing at home, Seattle is favored to win by three points, but we’ve predicted the Vikings will have the Seahawks on upset alert (here’s why).
These two teams have some interesting matchups that will be fun to watch. We’ll dive into a few of those as we examine the biggest questions ahead of this Monday Night Football showdown.
Can Minnesota’s defense get to Russell Wilson?
The only team that’s been able to slow Russell Wilson down this season has been the 49ers, whose pressure up front created havoc for Seattle’s offense. The good news for the Vikings on Monday Night Football is that they feature the NFL’s most effective pass-rushing duo, Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter.
If these two edge rushers can get off to a hot start and help create extra chances for the Vikings’ offense, the Seahawks will be in trouble.
Will the Seahawks slow down Dalvin Cook?
Already over 1,000 yards rushing this season in 11 games, Dalvin Cook is the engine that drives the Vikings’ offense. The dynamic former Florida State star is equally dangerous on the ground and through the air, as he’s piled up 455 yards on 45 receptions.
Seattle’s run defense is in the top half of the league in rushing yards allowed per game (101.5 yards) but gives up 4.5 yards per attempt and has allowed 12 touchdowns on the ground already this season. If Cook is able to establish a consistent rushing threat early on Monday Night Football, the Seahawks defense will be hard-pressed to get off the field.
Will Adam Thielen’s absence hurt the Vikings?
Surprisingly, star Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen will not play Monday night against the Seahawks. He practiced all week and many expected him to return for this huge game in Seattle, but it was not meant to be.
In eight games played this year, Thielen has caught 27 passes for 391 yards and six touchdowns. He’s one of the best playmakers in the league and has been a huge part of Minnesota’s success in recent years.
Seattle’s secondary isn’t fantastic, so Thielen’s absence may not hurt the Vikings tremendously. But if Stefon Diggs is bottled up, it’ll be up to guys like tight end Kyle Rudolph, Bisi Johnson, Irv Smith and Laquon Treadwell to step up and make big plays when it matters.
How much will Clowney have to give?
Coming off arguably the biggest game of his career, two weeks ago in Santa Clara, Jadeveon Clowney is dealing with a core muscle injury that could eventually require surgery. He is playing Monday night, barring a late change. But how much will he have to give?
Seattle’s pass rush isn’t stellar, even with Clowney this year. As he had a breakout game against the 49ers, the entire defense experienced a huge boost. Given the kind of balance and weapons the Vikings bring, Clowney will need to be playing well to give the Seahawks the best chance to win.
Can Kirk Cousins stay hot?
Leading up to this season, there was an established narrative (and one that was correct) that Kirk Cousins couldn’t win big games. He’s showed some serious mettle this season and is in the middle of re-writing his own tale while playing outstanding football.
Leading up to this pivotal Monday Night Football battle, Cousins is in the middle of a seven-game stretch in which he’s passed for an average of 289 yards per game while throwing 18 touchdowns and just one interception.
Should Cousins stay hot, it’s hard to believe the Vikings will not pull off the big upset on Monday night.