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Seattle Seahawks: Keys To Victory And A Brutally Cold Playoff History

Friday, January 08, 2016

 

In the decades of NFL playoff football in the Super Bowl Era (1967-present), there have been 107 games that have had a kickoff temperature of 32 degrees (F) or below. Of those 107 games, just 10 were in the single digits. 

And of those 10, only six had to deal with the type of weather Seattle and Minnesota are expected to experience this Sunday.

To illustrate how rare this type of game is, there were only two criteria, and only six of 107 games met them both: 

Criteria a) playoff game
Criteria b) kickoff temperature of 1 degree or below

The current forecast at kickoff (noon central time, 10am Pacific) calls for one degree Fahrenheit, and local weather people are also expecting a wind chill to be in the neighborhood of -20 degrees. That’s cold on a level that players on either side of the ball have not experienced recently if ever, and absolutely not in a playoff atmosphere with the season on the line. Even if the area somehow warmed up to as high as say, 4 degrees, the amount of playoff games in NFL history with matching weather only jumps to 8.

Before we dive in to how both teams can get a victory this Sunday, let’s take a brief look at the brutally cold NFL playoff history and see what lies in store:

One takeaway is that yards will most certainly be at a premium, as they are well below NFL averages. Ball security will need to be a focus as well, as every one of the six games listed above had at least 2 turnovers, one as high as 7. Another thing to keep in mind is that if the temperature outside is below freezing, then so is the ground. That can mean some lingering pain for QB’s when they are forced to the ground, which is likely to feel more like landing on concrete than grass in these conditions. Both offenses struggle to protect the QB so this could be a major swing if either Russell Wilson or Teddy Bridgewater suffer an injury during the game. 

One other factor to consider is that the home team is only 4-2 in these type of games, so going on the road isn’t a loss right out of the gate. And while west coast teams are just 1-2 in this type of game, it’s safe to say that Seattle is not your typical “west coast” team as they are built for winter football.

Since both sides will be dealing with the same elements, here are the players on the injury report as well as three keys each team must focus on in order to win and move on to the divisional round:

Seattle -

RB Marshawn Lynch (abdomen) - practicing , probable to play
SS Kam Chancellor (pelvis)  - practicing, probable to play

LT Russell Okung (calf) - limited practice, questionable to play
RG JR Sweezy (concussion) - limited practice, questionable to play
TE Luke Willson (concussion) - limited practice, questionable to play
CB Jeremy Lane (oblique) - limited practice, questionable to play
DT Jordan Hill (toe) - limited practice, questionable to play

DE Michael Bennett (toe) did not practice, questionable to play
WR Tyler Lockett (hip) did not practice, questionable to play

Run, run, run the ball. Marshawn Lynch is finally back (and presumably healthy), and appears ready to take the lion’s share of carries back. If he has his old burst and lateral quickness, he could be exactly what Seattle needs to get an early lead and to protect it late. A consistent trend in the six games above is that 11 of the 12 teams had rushing yards at or above 80 yards. It may sound an awful lot like the 5 D’s of dodgeball (dodge, duck, dip, dive, and….dodge) but it if you run the ball consistently well, you should be ok. 

STOP or at least marginally slow Adrian Peterson. If Lynch having a good day is important to victory, then stopping the NFL’s reigning rushing champion is equally important. Peterson struggled a bit last week against Green Bay and managed just 18 yards in Minnesota’a first game against Seattle, but it’s unlikely that he is held to such little production again. Expect the Vikings to ride their star back as much as possible, and Peterson is a freight train, so Seattle must be willing and eager to hit him every time he has the ball until they’ve won the battle. If Peterson is hurt, the same onus goes on stopping Jerick McKinnon.

Roll out the passing game early, but use caution. Russell WIlson and Doug Baldwin may or may not put up ridiculous numbers in this one, but as long as they keep pace with the Vikings, they don’t need to go for kill shots on every drive. The fact is that Minnesota doesn’t have a single defender that can consistently cover Baldwin one on one, but keep in mind that some bizarre turn of events can happen in cold weather games. Football is a whole different game when it’s cold, so even though Baldwin has been red hot and Wilson trusts him as much or more than any other Seahawk, make sure to proceed with caution and don’t force him the ball, especially if it’s during a critical drive. 

Minnesota

RB Adrian Peterson (back) - not practicing, questionable to play
DT Kenrick Ellis (ankle) - not practicing, questionable to play

NT Linval Joseph (foot) - limited practice, questionable to play
DE Everson Griffen (shoulder) - limited practice, questionable to play


If Minnesota wants to win, they need to run Adrian Peterson (assuming he is healthy/playing) until the whistle blows. Seattle has the #1 overall pass defense and Teddy Bridgewater has the #22 best QB numbers, so it’s not ideal for him to go out there and sling it against the Legion of Boom. Seattle does have the #2 rush defense as well, so it’s not going to be easy sledding for Peterson, either. If McKinnon is the starting back, this game could get ugly. 

Put. Points. On. The. Board. You cannot go into halftime against Seattle down multiple scores. In regular weather, they run the ball and grind out the clock. That will be even harder to prevent while playing in an ice box. This isn’t Norv Turner’s first rodeo, he needs to create a gameplan that keeps the running and passing plays at a 60/40 or even a 70/30 split, and limit how much Teddy B has to handle. That all starts with giving the rock to AP, and keeping the game close. If AP is not available, I really do not like the Vikings’ chances to keep pace with Seattle. 

Mike Zimmer needs to come up with some answers for what Seattle is doing on offense. The tape of Seattle’s two games against St. Louis are bound to be helpful, especially film from week 16. If there’s one thing that absolutely did in Minnesota the last time these two teams met, it was that they had no answer for Seattle’s ground game, and even fewer answers for their aerial attack, or Wilson’s legs when they did have everyone covered. Basically everything did them in, and the the short version is this: I don’t know what the answers are, but this time they need to come up with some answers. 

Secret hidden key number 4: Seriously, don’t let the cold beat you. Your local college team plays in weather like this on occasion, you need to find ways to block it out, you must have seen this type of weather at some point while you’ve been in the Twin Cities. I can promise you, no one from Seattle has been in this type of weather in Seattle, but I suppose there are more frustrating things in this life than out-of-towners managing things better in your backyard than you can.

{image_3}GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here.

 

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