What to watch for: Vikings at Seahawks
Batten down the hatches for Adrian Peterson.
1. Only 10 months removed from knee surgery, Peterson leads the league in rushing and while Seattle's run defense is a strength, it was just two games ago that Frank Gore rushed for 131 yards, becoming the first back to hit triple digits against Seattle this season. Peterson rushed for more than 120 yards in each of the past two games. He hasn't hit triple digits three games in a row since 2008.
2. Possession is nine-tenths of the law.
Marshawn Lynch rushed 12 times last week in Detroit, his fewest in any game in more than a year. He has carried the ball fewer than 20 times in each of the past three games, a fact that has been reflected in Seattle's time of possession. Through five games, Seattle had the ball an average of 32 minutes. In the past three, that average dropped to 26:25, and Seattle lost two of those games.
3. Plan a pressure-packed afternoon for Minnesota's Christian Ponder.
The Seahawks allowed Matthew Stafford to convert 12 of 16 third-down plays last week during a game in which Seattle's defensive ends didn't account for either one of the team's two sacks. That has to change this week as Seattle returns home for the second time in six weeks. Rookie Bruce Irvin hasn't had a sack in any of the previous three games, but maybe the home crowd will help him get around the opposing tackle.
Keys to Vikings victory
1. Keep Seattle from running away with the game.
The Vikings allowed 78.6 yards rushing during their 4-1 start. They've given up an average of 156 while dropping two of their last three games. That's not a promising sign considering Seattle runs the ball on a higher percentage of its offensive plays than any other team in the league. Hard to imagine the Vikings winning this game if they can't stop Lynch.
2. Collapse Russell Wilson's pocket.
Minnesota's run defense used to be the team's strength. Now it's the pass rush. Defensive end Jared Allen has seven sacks, tied for seventh in the league, and Brian Robinson and Everson Griffen are also speedy pass rushers. The Seahawks didn't allow a sack last week, the first time that has happened this season, but rookie quarterback Russell Wilson has shown a tendency to run at the first sign of pressure.
3. Force Seattle turnovers.
The Seahawks have committed 13 turnovers this season, but only two of those have come at home. Wilson has a quarterback rating of 116.9 at home, but Seattle's 1-4 record on the road shows it's not the type of team that can weather too many errors by its offense.
Vikings' Percy Harvin vs. Seahawks' Leon Washington.
The pair of kick returners won't be facing each other, but their head-to-head duel will be critical because of the emphasis both teams place upon special teams. Harvin averages 35.7 yards per kickoff return, and has already scored on one this year. Washington ranks fifth at 29.8, and while his returns have set up multiple scoring opportunities this season, he hasn't gotten into the end zone. At least not yet.
The Vikings have won the past two games between these teams by a total of 66-22, but Minnesota is 2-4 in all games played at Seattle. Coach Pete Carroll is 3-1 vs. the NFC North since becoming the Seahawks coach.