A lot of questions entering Sunday’s NFC Wildcard games.
Can the Minnesota Vikings get their passing game going? How will the Seattle Seahawks fair without Marshall Lynch? Were the Washington Redskins a byproduct of an easy schedule? Can the Green Bay Packers get their offensive mojo back?
Let’s taker a closer look at Sunday’s match-ups . . .
No. 6 Seattle Seahawks at No. 3 Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, 1 p.m., NBC
There is certainly anecdotal evidence of how these teams match up. On December 6, the Seahawks beat the Vikings 38-7 in Minnesota.
In that game, Vikings star tailback Adrian Peterson ran for just 18 yards on eight carries and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater threw for only 118 yards and a pick. The Vikings lone score came on a kickoff return.
So it’s hard to imagine Minnesota’s offense improving much from that outing with temperatures expected to hover around zero.
The Vikings finished the regular season with the NFL’s 31st-ranked passing offense. Standout receiver Mike Wallace caught only 39 balls.
“I’d like us to be more explosive,” said Vikings coach Mike Zimmer about his offense.
Speaking of explosion, the Seahawks will be without star tailback Marshawn Lynch, still recovering from hernia surgery.
Their quarterback Russell Wilson has been playing on a high level over the last month, and Zimmer knows his defense faces quite a challenge.
“He’s got the running ability like Fran Tarkenton, but he’s also extremely accurate,” Zimmer said. “That’s what I’ve been most impressed with, his deep-ball accuracy, his quick-game accuracy, throwing the ball into the right place. He doesn’t seem to make mistakes, and obviously he’s extremely elusive. I think the way he’s throwing the ball has been the most impressive to me.”
While Minnesota has made great strides this year, expect Wilson to lead the visitors over the passing-challenged Vikings.
No. 5 Green Bay Packers at No. 4 Washington Redskins, Sunday, 4:40 p.m., NBC
As shocking as it might sound, the Redskins might have a slight edge at quarterback.
While Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers might be a future Hall-of-Famer, he’s in a major slump. Washington’s Kirk Cousins comes off a breakout season. He threw 29 touchdowns to 11 interceptions. He completed 69.8 percent of his passes, which is outstanding.
Redskins detractors are quick to point out the weakness of their schedule.
They had no wins over teams with winning records. They lost by a combined 105-46 to the three teams they played over .500.
One reason for the Packers’ offensive malaise is a beat-up offensive line. In their regular season finale against Minnesota, they were forced to play guard Josh Sitton at left tackle. That was an unmitigated disaster.
The Packers keep their fingers crossed on the availability of regular left tackle David Baktiari, who nurses an ankle injury. Without him, Rodgers was sacked 14 times in the last two games.
Prediction: if Baktiari plays, the Packers win, if not, the Packers lose. Blindside pass protection is huge in the NFL.