The Seattle Seahawks are basically two wins away from securing a playoff berth in 2018, especially if one of those wins is Monday night against the Minnesota Vikings, a team they haven’t faced since their second-most recent playoff victory. And yes, use all the asterisks you want I guess, but: Seattle 10, Minnesota 9.
Shank or no shank, there was a shank and the Seahawks won. Can the Vikings get their Blairvenge?
Thankfully, Seattle doesn’t have to worry about that same kicker giving back a win to his old team, though Minnesota certainly has their eyes on the playoffs too and will be bringing plenty of fight to CenturyLink on primetime. The Vikings are currently the other wild card team and need a win to stave off the Eagles, Panthers, and Washington, while gaining advantage over the Seahawks in the process. At 6-5-1, Mike Zimmer has his team above .500 but they’ve lost three of five including the last two on the road. The Vikings haven’t won in Seattle since 2006 with the two games since going 30-20 and 41-20 in favor of the Hawks.
A lot of the players now though are different, like Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, and a much different Adam Thielen. To get a better idea of the Vikings today, I sent five Qs to Ted Glover of Daily Norseman and in kind he sent me back five corresponding As. These are them:
Q: The Vikings hired offensive coordinator John DeFilippo in the offseason and he was considered one of the league’s “big gets” after helping Carson Wentz/Nick Foles win a Super Bowl as the Eagles QB coach from 2016-2017. DeFilippo has an interesting history, having worked with Eli Manning, JaMarcus Russell, Derek Carr, and Johnny Manziel. How would you evaluate his 2018 season as OC, as well as the job done in working Kirk Cousins into Minnesota’s offense as an expected upgrade over the 2017 performance of Case Keenum?
A: DeFilippo has been underwhelming. He is too pass heavy, and that lack of balance has cost the Vikings football games. His play calling is suspect and predictable after the first 10-15 scripted plays, and he doggedly keeps running plays that are having little to no success. Which, to some extent has been okay, as Kirk Cousins is on pace to shatter team single season passing records, and he’s throwing to what is arguably the best WR tandem in the NFL in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. But that passing game has been very conservative of late, which is frustrating for a lot of fans. It feels like the Vikings are content to go down early, stick doggedly to three and five yard dump offs that aren’t working, and just hope someone breaks a tackle and makes a play. Cousins has definitely been an upgrade, but the Vikings offense is misfiring in a lot of places right now, and a lot of folks feel that ‘Flip’ is in over his head. I think he can get better, and he has serious weapons at his disposal, but we haven’t really seen the offense put it all together yet this year.
Q: Dalvin Cook missed the middle part of the season but returned a few weeks ago and he had nine carries for 84 yards against the Patriots last Sunday. Overall, the Vikings are one of the worst rushing teams in the NFL and they’re the worst rushing team in the league on the road in many respects. Does Cook make them substantially better? Do you expect them to even attempt to run the ball with any consistency?
A: Yeah, he does. A lot of this goes back to DeFilippo and the offensive philosophy. There’s no doubt the running game struggled, but I would argue a large reason why is because the running game is abandoned far too early. Take Cook and New England, as you mentioned in your question. In the first half of the patriots game he had consecutive runs of 32 and 18 yards. The 32 yard run came with 7:41 left in the first quarter. The 18 yard run came with 5:39 left...in the first half. He went literally one quarter without carrying the ball after a 32 yard run. The Vikings only ran one other time between those two plays, which was a short gain to Latavius Murray. When the Vikings do run the ball, and stick with it, good things usually happen. But it’s easy to make the offense one dimensional, not because of a lack of consistency, but because of a lack of commitment to run.
Q: Conversely, the Seahawks would love to establish the run and be consistent on the ground with Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny. The Vikings are still a top-10 defense it seems but not nearly as dominant as they were in 2017 when they ranked first in points and yards allowed. When looking at their star defensive players -- Harrison Smith, Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph, Xavier Rhodes, Anthony Barr -- has their been a noticeable drop-off in those ranks? Have Sheldon Richardson, Tom Johnson, or George Iloka contributed as additions in a way that you would have hoped?
A: For a couple players, yes. Everson Griffen had to spend some time away from the team to take care of a mental health issue, and he isn’t the dominant player he was last year. Anthony Barr has had an up and down year, and that’s led to a lot of speculation as to whether or not he’ll be back next year. He’s playing on the fifth year option of his rookie contract, and there have been no serious rumors about an extension for him. part of the reason for that is because Sheldon Richardson has been everything the VIkings had hoped for, and then some. I think he’s having the best year of his career, other than maybe his first season or two with the Jets, and Tom ‘Sebastian Thunderbucket’ Johnson was a fantastic addition when you guys inexplicably let him go earlier this season. But George Iloka, though, is another story. He just doesn’t see the field. I don’t think he’s seen more than four or five snaps a game. I don’t know that’s a knock on him, though, as much as it is due to the emergence of Anthony Harris, who is playing superb football in place of the injured Andrew Sendejo. Jayron Kearse has also played well and stepped in to the Vikings ‘big nickel’ package, that puts Kearse on the field in some nickel situations. So surprisingly, it’s not really Iloka being bad as much as it is Harris and Kearse really stepping up.
Q: What’s one issue on Minnesota that could keep them out of the playoffs that maybe isn’t a national story? What’s one bright spot on the team that people don’t typically talk about?
A: Well, it’s starting to come out now, but there seems to be some tension between Mike Zimmer and Flip and how he handles the offense. When the head coach and one of his coordinators don’t seem to see eye to eye, that’s not a good thing, and if it doesn’t get resolved could linger in to the off-season. The other problems seem to be more well known, like the sub-par offensive line, or the defense slipping a bit this year. Last year, when the Vikes made it to the NFC Championship, the Vikings played complementary football. By that I mean the offense picked up the defense when needed, and vice versa. they don’t seem to be doing that a lot this year. When the offense needs a drive to get points and give the defense a rest, they go three and out. When the defense needs to get off the field, they can’t. Very frustrating to watch at times.
Q: Have you heard of Michael Dickson?
I do know he’s your punter. I am also a Big Ten college football fan from way back, so no one respects the power of the punt more than I do. Punting is winning, amirite?
I also spoke to Arif Hasan in my latest Patreon podcast episode, previewing Seahawks-Vikings, and that’s available to all for free at Patreon thanks to Injury Legal Center: