Seattle’s earlier victory over the Vikings has few folks thinking the home team can win today’s playoff game. But as the Bengals and Steelers proved on Saturday night, any goofy thing is likely to happen. Here’s what our panel of “experts” (clears throat) have to offer with some Bold Predictions:
MATT VENSEL, Vikings beat writer
When the temperature drops, turnovers rise. So count on a few of them Sunday. One of these defenses will take one back to the house for a critical touchdown that will end up being the difference in the game. So which team will it be? I picked the Seahawks to win, but the Vikings defense has scored a touchdown in back-to-back weeks …
MARK CRAIG, Vikings beat writer
The weather won’t decide the game unless, of course, Seattle’s locker room door freezes shut before kickoff and traps Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, Michael Bennett, K.J. Wright, Brandon Mebane and, well, you get the idea. The Vikings are too good and too well-coached to get rolled by these guys again. Especially since it will be closer to a fair fight with Linval Joseph back and Anthony Barr and Harrison Smith healthy again. But Seattle is too good and too battle-tested to not respond appropriately to the challenge of being expected to win on the road in this weather. Seahawks 20-17.
JASON GONZALEZ, Vikings beat writer
The Vikings will take the next step in their rebuilding campaign under second-year coach Mike Zimmer and take a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter. However, Seattle’s young stud quarterback Russell Wilson and his crew will have finally warmed up by then and stage a comeback that jump-starts their run to the NFC Championship game, maybe even a third consecutive Super Bowl.
JIM SOUHAN, columnist
The Vikings will need big plays from their special teams to win. Cordarrelle Patterson responds to the challenge by setting an NFL record for kickoff return yards. Problem is, he has one touchdown called back because he head-butts Pete Carroll while running down the sideline and another called back when he celebrates by running out of the end zone and over to Buffalo Wild Wings and ordering a beer. Two lost touchdowns, Seattle wins, 26-18.
CHIP SCOGGINS, columnist
The first meeting was so one-sided it needed a running clock. That won’t happen again. This one will be close, within a field goal in the fourth quarter. The weather and Marshawn Lynch’s last-minute scratch work in the Vikings favor. But Russell Wilson will conquer the cold just enough to push the Seahawks to the next round.
MICHAEL RAND, Page 2 columnist
With all of us predicting problems the cold and wind Sunday, another natural element will instead play the most prominent role: the sun. Seattle isn’t used to it this time of year, and the bright glare from the sun will lead to a late muffed punt, helping the Vikings break a tie and win 16-13
CHRIS MILLER, sports team leader
The Vikings have played their last two games in cold weather outdoors, and you could argue they were under playoff-like intensity. That will help today, as will the return of top defensive players. But most importantly, they’ll have the drive and heart they lacked the first time the teams met. They’ll finally be able to trap Russell Wilson a few times and win rather handily, 24-16.