By Dave Thomas

When they met back on the first Sunday in December, the Seattle Seahawks all but throttled the Minnesota Vikings in the nation’s upper Midwest, rolling to a 38-7 victory.

Turn the clock forward a little over a month later and the Vikings (11-5) appear to be a much more confident team, especially after ending Green Bay’s recent run of NFC North Division crowns. With their 20-13 win at Lambeau Field last Sunday evening, the Vikings exercised some demons, along with giving themselves a first-round home date this Sunday afternoon with the Seattle Seahawks. Meanwhile, Seattle (10-6) comes into the contest fresh-off a 36-6 dismantling of the NFC West champion Arizona Cardinals last Sunday in the desert.

So, a pair of hot teams hit the field this Sunday in Minnesota, both with ambitions of playing next month for the game’s biggest prize, Super Bowl 50.

Seattle Looks For Third Straight NFC Crown

After struggling to a 4-5 record just past the halfway point of the season, Seattle has won six of seven games, a run that was needed just to make the playoffs. Anyone who follows the Seahawks knows that this season has been far from smooth, especially on the injury front. Among those to go down with season-ending injuries this year have been leading rusher Thomas Rawls and newly acquired tight end Jimmy Graham. While Seattle has managed to win without both in the lineup, there is little doubt even more pressured has been placed on the shoulders of quarterback Russell Wilson.

With a tough task at hand this Sunday in Minnesota, the Seahawks hope to have starting running back Marshawn Lynch back, even if he’s not at 100 percent following his recovery from abdominal surgery. According to head coach Pete Carroll, Lynch is ready to go come Sunday against the Vikings. Even though Carroll and Co. are not expecting Lynch to carry the load for the Seahawks, having him contribute some or even serve at times as a decoy would certainly help Seattle’s cause.

Can Seattle Hold Peterson In Check Again?

On the defensive side of the ball, Seattle’s top-ranked scoring defense will once again look to put the clamps on the NFL’s top rusher, one Adrian Peterson. In their meeting back in early December, Peterson was held in check and then some, rushing for a mere 18 yards. While it is hard to believe Seattle can totally bottle-up the former Oklahoma star two times in barely a month, there is little doubt number 28 will draw major attention from Seahawk defenders. If that’s the case, look for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to take more of the offensive burden on his shoulders.

Meanwhile, both teams will undoubtedly have their eyes on the weather forecast, though so far it is not showing any inclement weather. According to weather reports, players, coaches and fans can expect to be bundled up, with the game-time temperature expected to be in the single digits, though no snow is forecast.

With their season now down to one-game eliminations, the Seahawks are one of those teams most opponents do not want to face in the post-season, especially given the team’s heavy load of playoff experience. That said expect Minnesota to be much more competitive than it was in that regular-season 38-7 thrashing.

Dave Thomas has been covering the sports world since his first job as a sports editor for a weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania back in 1989. He has covered a Super Bowl, college bowl games, MLB, NBA and more. His work can be found on aExaminer.com.

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