NFL Preview - Minnesota (2-7) at Seattle (9-1)
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - The 9-1 Seattle Seahawks have proven to be football's most formidable home team, and adding Percy Harvin to the mix will only strengthen the top team in the NFC.
The dynamic receiver and return man was activated from the physically unable to perform list earlier this week and could suit up for the first time this season when the Seahawks entertain his old team, the Minnesota Vikings.
Seattle has won five straight overall after a 33-10 drubbing of Atlanta in Dixie last Sunday, and have taken 12 consecutive in front of the 12th man in the Pacific Northwest.
Russell Wilson passed for 287 yards and two touchdowns in Atlanta, while Marshawn Lynch rushed for 145 yards and a score.
Wilson had a 43-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse on a flea-flicker and a 6-yarder that Golden Tate caught with one hand in the corner of the end zone as Seattle remained unbeaten since a Week 5 loss at Indianapolis Oct. 6.
The Seahawks quarterback completed 19 of his 26 passes in the first meeting between the teams since Atlanta won their divisional round playoff game in January.
Lynch carried 24 times and Steven Hauschka, who broke into the NFL as a rookie free agent with Minnesota, kicked four field goals for the Seahawks, who outgained the Falcons 490-226 yards and held the ball for 35 1/2 minutes on offense.
"Wow. What a game," said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. "I think it was our most complete game of the year. We couldn't wait to get out on the football field."
The Vikings, meanwhile, halted an ugly four-game skid in Week 10 when their embattled defense came up with a goal-line stand in the final minute to secure the team's 34-27 victory over the Washington Redskins.
Robert Griffin III and the Redskins took over from their own 20 with 3:36 to play. Despite having no timeouts, Washington was able to move the ball down the field. Jordan Reed's 17-yard catch moved the ball to the 8-yard line. Following a run by Roy Helu and two incomplete passes, Griffin lofted a fourth-down pass to Santana Moss. The wide receiver caught the ball but was out of bounds.
"It felt like we were in control, and when you walk off the field with a loss, it's very disheartening," Griffin said.
Much-maligned Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder completed 17-of-21 passes for 174 yards, two touchdowns and an interception before leaving late in the third quarter with a dislocated left shoulder. Matt Cassel connected on 4-of-6 passes for 47 yards in relief.
"I thought that Christian (Ponder) played outstanding, I mean he battled all night long and what a great effort by him," Cassel said. "Great effort by our team in the second half to comeback, fight through adversity and get a win tonight."
Adrian Peterson carried the ball 20 times for 75 yards and two touchdowns for the Vikings (2-7), who remain mired in last place in the tough NFC North. Former Seahawk John Carlson caught seven passes for 98 yards and a score for Minnesota while playing for injured Pro-Bowler Kyle Rudolph (fractured foot).
"Well, I'm sure, like our team and myself, you guys are happy that the Minnesota Vikings got a win at home," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "It's a lot more fun when you get wins in our league and they are hard to come by. So proud of our football team the way they prepared and fought tonight."
The Seahawks lead their all-time series with Minnesota by a 7-5 margin, including a 30-20 win in Seattle last season when Wilson threw for three touchdowns and Lynch rushed for 124 yards and another score.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Ponder was limited in practice early in the week because of his left shoulder injury, but he is expected to play although Frazier has continued to hint that Cassel or Josh Freeman could get the start if Ponder isn't ready. It's an attempt to get some kind of competitive advantage against a dominant Seahawks team which has outscored its opposition 364-152 and forced 20 turnovers during its 12-game home winning streak.
Ponder played one of his best games against the Redskins before leaving but pump the brakes before assuming he's turned the corner. The Florida State product still has trouble getting the ball downfield and moving past his first read during any pass progression. Ponder's default settling also remains flushing out of the pocket instead of steeping up into it and this week he will be facing the NFL's best secondary (even without injured CB Brandon Browner) instead of one of the worst.
The Seahawks allow just 178.0 passing yards per game, second-best in the NFL, and Ponder was a dismal 11-of-22 for 63 yards and was picked off by Browner in Seattle last year.
That means the Vikings will lean heavily on Adrian Peterson, who ran for 182 yards and two touchdowns against the Seahawks last season. The reigning NFL MVP will see plenty of eight- and nine-man fronts designed to stop him, however.
Seattle, meanwhile, is 9-1 for the first time in franchise history and have won the 12 straight at home, which directly correlates with Wilson taking over as the team's quarterback.
The second-year star has completed 170-of-261 passes for 2,322 yards with 24 TDs versus six INTs in Seattle, including a 16- of-24 performance in the 30-20 win over the Vikings in 2012.
Defensively Minnesota struggles mightily on third downs especially against mobile quarterbacks like Wilson who can extend plays. The Vikings lack discipline on the pass rush and are a poor tackling bunch in the back seven.
To make matters worse for Minnesota, Harvin, who was acquired from the Vikings in March for draft picks and is one of the game's elite playmakers when healthy, could be champing at the bit to get at his old team.
"He just has to practice every day and show that what he's done in the rehab has paid off and that he can sustain through each day," Carroll said. "It's really the next day that we always look at. We'll just see how it goes. To us it's not a pressure decision."
Carroll may have foreshadowed the Vikings only chance here.
Seattle's bye week comes after this game and the team could decide to give Harvin, along with other key injured players like offensive linemen Max Unger (concussion), Russell Okung (toe) and Breno Giacomini (knee), another two full weeks to get healthy, thinking it doesn't need its full complement to top Minnesota.
"It's two weeks that we could buy. We have that in mind," Carroll said. "We're going to take the information and evaluate each guy and figure out what it means, knowing that we're OK. We're OK where we are, so we're not pressed into making a decision hastily."
The Seahawks are probably looking past this game at the bye but the Vikings just don't have the horses to compete with what may be the most balanced team in all of football.
"We've got more games we have to win and we have a lot of work to finish it out," Carroll said. "We have a chance to do something special in this division, we need to take advantage of every opportunity and win every game going down the stretch."
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Seahawks 31, Vikings 17
11/14 13:26:05 ET