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Seahawks vs. Vikings Breakdown Corner: Pass the Brennavin

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

While the game against Pittsburgh was like repeatedly going up and down a drop tower at the local amusement park (wherever your local amusement park might be), this week's Seahawks-Vikings clash should be no less interesting, if a little less adrenaline-filled.

On paper, in traditional terms, these teams match up well. Seattle boasts the 8th-highest scoring offense in the NFL in terms of points but has only the 8th best defense; Minnesota is just 24th best in offense but shows 2nd in defense. The Seahawks have a +45 point differential, the Vikes a +37.

Both teams have around 1600 yards on 330-ish rushing attempts; they both throw the ball about as often as they run; and they both average starting drives with the ball about 3 yards farther downfield than their opposition. In terms of efficiency, both teams manage a new set of downs or a touchdown 68% of the time, sitting at 12th and 13th in the league.*

By DVOA, though, Seattle projects as the better team, with a 4th-ranked offense going up against Minnesota's 14th-ranked defense.

In spite of their similarities, don't expect Sunday's game to be a mirror image on both sides of the ball, as the teams will spend the first quarter probing weaknesses in the opposition before, presumably, attempting to exploit them.

Having watched a few Vikings games this year, I can confidently say that Teddy Bridgewater is no Russell Wilson. At least, he's no Russell Wilson from 2015; he's more like Wilson 2012, with a twist. Bridgewater has ample arm and accuracy, and he reads defenses well pre-snap, but where Wilson has been starting his scrambles a split second early, Bridgewater has been starting his a split second late, leading to a lot of ugly knock-downs.

That having been said, Bridgewater is no stranger to the use of tight ends and running backs as outlets. He works the field well, using receivers about twice as often as tight ends and thrice as often as running backs on short throws (under 15 yards). He's also willing to throw the ball deep (63 of 326 attempts this year), but he has the tendency to force these passes: his 7 INTs have all come on deep balls -- yes, 1 in 9 of his deep passes is picked off. Overall, Teddy is a 65.2% passer, but he's mysteriously bad with 4-6 yards to go, dropping to a 53.7% thrower and managing first downs just 1/3 of the time.

The Minnesota offensive line took a lot of crap early in the season for being relatively ineffectual, but the group has been far better at preventing sacks than Seattle's has. The main weakness is at right tackle, where rookie T.J. Clemmings has had trouble facing strong defensive ends and linebackers. Expect Michael Bennett to really try to light him up.

Stefon Diggs has emerged as the star in the Vikings' receiver stable. His 40 catches in 60 targets isn't spectacular, but his 15.1 yards per reception is solid. Diggs isn't just targeted deep, either: he has just 7 catches beyond 15 yards, and he regularly turns 7-yard receptions into 12- or 15-yard gains.

Bridgewater is also fortunate to have Kyle Rudolph running up the gut. Rudolph will be a thorn in Seattle's side. Aside from just, you know, being a tight end, Rudolph is an experienced player who blocks well, as well as being able to run the seam or settle in behind linebackers when the opportunity presents itself. He leads the team with 4 TD receptions and will present a tough matchup for this Seattle team.

I think there's someone else who plays on the Vikes' offense. This guy Peterman? Is that it?

We've all seen AP run, but an analysis is even more interesting. Adrian Peterson is averaging 4.9 yard per carry and has rumbled for 8 touchdowns already this year -- including 4 on runs of 35 yards or longer. He's elusive near the line, and in the open field he's explosive. He's slippery heading through gaps, and his vision is otherworldly.

But Peterson has some interesting splits. He's averaging under 3 ypc running behind the left tackle -- I'm going to openly speculate it's because he likes to weave to his right near the line (a move that doesn't help him when the defense is moving right-to-left), but this is based on my limited sample of viewings and could easily be swayed by a more convincing argument. He also improves vastly as the game goes on, moving from 3.5 ypc under heavy use in the first quarter (81 of his 237 carries) to almost 8 ypc in the final frame.

On defense, Minnesota's front 4 will be hard to contain. This is the game that will show whether the Seattle offensive line has actually improved. Like the Seahawks of yesteryear (or maybe yester-yesteryear), the 2015 Vikings have a bend-don't-break mentality that limits opponent options. Lindval Joseph is a brute at nose tackle, and Sharrif Floyd has been giving opponents problems when he's been healthy this season.

Behind them, Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks have shown well in coverage, which will limit how much Seattle can do with the middle of the field. Safety Harrison Smith is having an all-pro year so far, showing aggressiveness to get up in the run game as well as speed to hang in coverage. At corner, Terence Newman has roped in a trio of interceptions and has been defending relatively well, while Xavier Rhodes had a strong run through November. But both are beatable.

The Vikings have minimized big plays by the opponents, but when they give up ground yardage, they falter. Minnesota has given up 100+ yards rushing 5 times this year, 3 of them losses. Strong rushing performances seem to wear them down, which bodes well for the Rawlsin' Seahawks.

Where Minnesota excels is in short- to mid-range pass defense, preventing yards after catch. Opponents complete almost 69% of their passes but average just over 100 YAC per game (4th in the NFL, a sliver behind Seattle). Even teams that traditionally throw well have had trouble against the Vikings, with no quarterback topping 287 yards passing this season. Throws out of the backfield have netted limited yardage, even if they're rarely defensed (just 8 passes to RBs have gone over 10 yards, one of those a deep pass to CJ Anderson). The only way around this stifling defense, then, is to be patient with balanced playcalling and not get greedy.

Ultimately, beating Minnesota will mean getting up on them in the first half so they'll be forced to rely on the less experienced Bridgewater later in the game instead of allowing them to slowly move down the field with medium-to-long clock-killing Adrian Peterson runs. Seattle's defense should be able to slow down the rushing attack some, but it will need to be careful about Kyle Rudolph. There should be few problems guarding the wide receivers, and pressuring Bridgewater should disrupt the offense enough to keep the Vikings from tallying too many points.

Don't expect the kind of scoring explosion from Seattle that characterized the Pittsburgh game, though. The Seahawks should expect to play the long game on offense, stick with the running game perhaps a little more than they normally would (into the 2nd quarter even!), and take advantage of small separations on relatively short routes. Deep throw opportunities will be few and far between, and without Jimmy Graham, it will be hard to get the tight ends involved.

* I'm still having trouble figuring out how St. Louis is so vastly inefficient -- they get new downs less than 56% of the time, a whopping 4.5% less than really terrible San Francisco.