Week 14 of the NFL season wraps up with a massive game in the NFC wild-card race between the Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings. Game time is set for 8:15 EST on Monday, December 10, at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. The game can be seen nationally on ESPN.
Oddsmakers list the Seahawks as 3.5-point favorites at home. The over/under for the game is set at 45 points. Be sure to check out a full list of this week’s NFL betting odds.
The Seahawks have quietly become one of the hottest teams in the NFL. They’ve won three in a row, knocking off the Packers, Panthers, and 49ers during that stretch. Seattle’s problem, of course, is that the Rams have already locked up the NFC West, meaning it’s the wild card or nothing for them this season. On the bright side, the Seahawks currently sit atop the wild-card standings in the NFC. There are four teams within a game of them, but for the moment, Seattle controls their own destiny.
Fortunately for Seattle, they have a manageable schedule heading down the stretch. They’ll be home for three of their last four games, including a Week 16 game against the Chiefs. With games against both the 49ers and Cardinals left on their schedule, the Seahawks should feel good about their playoff chances. But they’ll really start to feel confident if they can hold serve Monday night against the Vikings.
At 6-5-1, Minnesota holds the other wild-card spot in the NFC, despite losing three of their last five games. The caveat, of course, is that there are three 6-6 teams right behind them just waiting for them to slip up. On the bright side, Minnesota is within striking distance of the Bears at the top of the NFC North. The Vikings will host the Bears in Week 17, giving them a chance to win the division if they can keep pace with Chicago until then.
That being said, a playoff spot one way or another is far from guaranteed for the Vikings. A loss at any point during the final four weeks of the season could take Minnesota out of the playoff picture. Right now, the Vikings control their own destiny. But a loss on Monday night could change that.
I’m getting close to jumping on the Seattle bandwagon. The Seahawks will have a tough road once they get to the playoffs. But I think they’ll get there and I think they’ll extend their winning streak to four games. Minnesota’s inconsistency the last several weeks is concerning, so I don’t trust them to show up against a quality team on the road. I’ll eat the points and look for the Seahawks to cover the 3.5-point spread.
Unlike past seasons when the defense has led the way, the Seahawks are winning games lately on the back of their offense. Specifically, Chris Carson and the running game are leading the way. He’s gotten 16 touches in each of the last three weeks, and it’s no coincidence that Seattle has won all three games. As we know, when Russell Wilson is getting consistent support from the running game, he can be lethal in play-action.
To be fair, Minnesota’s defense is one of the best in the NFL at defending the run. The Vikings are giving up less than four yards per carry on the ground. However, good running teams have found a way to move the ball against them. Plus, the Vikings will still have to respect Seattle’s rushing attack based on what they’ve done the last few weeks. That alone should open up play-action for Wilson.
On the other side of the ball, the Vikings are struggling to run the ball with much consistency. Dalvin Cook has received no more than 10 carries since returning from injury a few weeks ago, which has made it tough for him to get going. He started to break out last week against New England, but he still needs to get more carries. The Seahawks have been vulnerable this season when it comes to defending the run, so this is where the Vikings need to attack.
When the Vikings don’t establish the run, they put too much on the shoulders of Kirk Cousins. He’s thrown 40 or more passes seven times this season, and the Vikings have only one win in those games. It’s also worth noting that six of his nine interceptions this season have come over the last five games. That’s of particular concern against the Seattle defense, as the Seahawks have one of the best turnover differentials in the NFL. That could end up being the difference in this game in favor of the home team.
All things considered, the Vikings have too many flaws to convince me that they’ll beat Seattle on the road. They aren’t reliable running the ball while Cousins has become turnover prone over the last month. That’s too much to overcome on the road, especially with the way the Seahawks can control the game by running the ball. I don’t think 3.5 points is an unreasonable spread for this game, so I’ll lean toward Seattle to cover.