With both franchises seeking a bounce-back win after heart-wrenching defeats in Week 2, the Seahawks and Vikings will rekindle their rivalry squaring off for the fourth straight season, taking the act to U.S. Bank Stadium for the first time.
Here are five crucial matchups to watch as Seattle hits the road for the second time this season and Minnesota plays its home opener:
--Seahawks tackles Duane Brown and Jamarco Jones versus Vikings defensive ends Danielle Hunter and Stephen Weatherly: While coach Pete Carroll indicated Brandon Shell will be a game-time decision with an ankle sprain, he hasn't practiced at all this week and his absence would be a huge loss for the Seahawks. Historically, Hunter has done most of his damage rushing off the left side, including generating 14.0 sacks going against right tackles in 2019 according to Pro Football Focus charting. This year, seven of his nine pressures and two of his 4.0 sacks have come from the left side, where he will likely be working against Jones, who has under 60 regular season snaps at the position in his career. Such a mismatch could put Russell Wilson under duress early and often, while Weatherly has pass rushing skills in his own right and racked up five pressures against the Cardinals last weekend. Both players will provide tests even for Brown, who has yet to surrender a pressure through two games. Keeping the edge rushers under control, particularly the disruptive Hunter, will be critical to the team's chances of winning on the road.
--Seahawks linebackers Bobby Wagner, Jordyn Brooks, and Darrell Taylor versus Vikings running back Dalvin Cook: It shouldn't come as a surprise after Derrick Henry ran all over them in the second half last week, but the Seahawks are gearing up for this contest with slowing down the run game as priority No. 1 and want to force Kirk Cousins to beat them through the air in a one-dimensional attack. Though he doesn't run with quite the same power Henry does, Cook is likewise the engine that drives Minnesota's offense and he possesses elite explosiveness and vision, as evidenced by the fact he has more 10-plus yard runs than any running back in the league after two weeks of play. Starting with Taylor at the SAM linebacker spot, Seattle will need to do a better job setting the edge than a week ago to prevent him from getting downhill and breaking off chunk plays on the ground. Wagner, Brooks, and Taylor will also have to be on top of their game in coverage, as Cook can be equally dangerous as a receiver out of the backfield and caught 137 passes for 1,185 yards from 2018 to 2020.
--Seahawks guards Damien Lewis and Gabe Jackson and center Kyle Fuller versus Vikings defensive tackles Michael Pierce, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Sheldon Richardson: Uncharacteristically for a Mike Zimmer-coached defense, the Vikings were gashed in the run game last year, finishing 27th in rushing yards against and surrendering 19 rushing touchdowns. Aiming to rectify that problem, the team signed Tomlinson and Richardson in free agency, pairing them with Pierce, who returned to action after sitting out last year as a COVID-19 opt-out. So far, while Minnesota hasn't been much better against the run as a whole, the fortified interior line has played well. The 340-pound Pierce has been an immovable object in the middle and provided unexpected pass rushing punch, contributing three pressures and a pair of sacks thus far. Tomlinson has five tackles and two pressures thus far, while Richardson has recorded two tackles and a pressure in a reserve role. The Seahawks will hope to get their rushing attack back on track after being thwarted by the Titans, but to make that happen, Lewis, Fuller, and Jackson will have to hold their own in the trenches against a talented defensive tackle trio that also could do damage in the passing game.
--Seahawks cornerbacks Tre Flowers, D.J. Reed, and Marquise Blair versus Vikings receivers Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson, and K.J. Osborn: Seattle may be of the right mindset wanting to stop Cook first and foremost, but by forcing Minnesota into passing more, it could be a case of be careful what you wish for. Led by Thielen and Jefferson, the Vikings currently have more receiving yardage by receivers than any team in the NFL. Last year, Thielen finished third in the NFL in touchdown receptions and Jefferson finished third in receiving yardage as a rookie. After struggling against Julio Jones a week ago and giving up over 100 receiving yards against the Titans, all eyes will be on Flowers, who could be playing for his job this weekend with Sidney Jones looming behind him. As for Reed, though he played well last week for the most part, his lack of size (5-foot-9) could be problematic against Minnesota's bigger receivers. Making things tougher, Osborn has been a revelation emerging as the Vikings third receiver and already has 15 receptions for 167 yards. Blair and Ugo Amadi, who have split reps at nickel corner so far, will have their hands full with Thielen and Osborn running routes from the slot.
--Seahawks receivers DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett versus Vikings cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Bashaud Breeland: At least in terms of giving up yardage and points, the Vikings' cornerback group hasn't fared any better than the Seahawks and they're currently dealing with some injuries. Peterson has been limited by a toe issue throughout the week and has been limited at practice, while Breeland was upgraded to full participant on Thursday with a back injury. With those two veterans in the starting lineup the first two weeks, Minnesota has allowed 10.5 yards per pass attempt, the second-worst mark in the league. While Peterson has fared well against Metcalf in the past when he was with the Cardinals, he allowed two touchdown receptions to his former team last weekend and has allowed six receptions for 111 yards on seven targets. Breeland has been even more abysmal, allowing three touchdown catches and 155 receiving yards on just 12 targets. Lockett and Metcalf should be licking their lips in anticipation of this matchup and if Wilson has time in the pocket to operate, this should be Seattle's greatest advantage on either side of the ball.