The Seattle Seahawks are headed to Minnesota.
After crushing the Arizona Cardinals Sunday, the Seahawks found themselves watching the scoreboard. Depending on who won in the Minnesota Vikings/Green Bay Packers game, the Seahawks could have been traveling to Washington, D.C. or Minnesota. The Vikes won, so Seattle is Minnesota-bound.
Sunday’s rout was thanks in part to excellent running back performances from Christine Michael and Bryce Brown who, between them, had 122 yards on 27 carries for a touchdown. The two represent Seattle’s third and fourth string backs at the moment. Quarterback Russell Wilson threw for 197 yards and three scores in the win.
The performances Seattle is getting from its backups are impressive. New starter, defensive back Jeremy Lane, picked off Arizona QB Carson Palmer Sunday and almost did it a second time. In fact, the defense as a whole was dominant against the Cards, holding their leading rusher to just 25 yards and leading receiver to only 55.
Now that the playoff schedule is set, we're imagining how the NFC slate will play out. First up, the Minnesota Vikings.
Round 1, Minnesota Vikings (3 Seed): Many touted this game as the big brother versus older brother--could the younger bro hold off the perennial favorite? TheVikings' young, agile QB Teddy Bridgewater shows signs of maybe – maybe – being the next Russell Wilson. Minnesota’s defense is also highly touted as one of the best in the league. How we see it happening: But it’s the Seahawks who stop the Purple People Eaters in their tracks (they did beat them in the season by about 30 points). Russell Wilson throws for two touchdowns, one to Lockett and one to Baldwin, and rushes for one of his own on a 23-yard scramble. The defense picks off Bridgewater once and despite a Christine Michael fumble in the Hawks’ territory, the team wins in Minnesota 27-13.
Round 2, Carolina Panthers (1 Seed): The only team in the league to start 14-0, the Panthers are the NFC’s top seed and received a bye in the first week of the playoffs. One of the Panthers’ wins this season came against the Seahawks where Richard Sherman picked a bad day to have a bad day. But it’s the post-season. And while the Panthers have the conference’s best record, it’s the Seahawks who are most feared. If it’s one thing the Hawks do well, it’s stop the run and stack the line. How we see it happening: This is what they do against Carolina in the conference semi-finals, daring the team to beat them – and their legendary secondary – through the air. In a season when the secondary has looked spotty, it’s playoff time that they’re looking their best. Carolina puts in a tough, grind-it-out game, but the Seahawks are a step faster with a few too many weapons. 'Hawks win, 17-13.
Round 3, Arizona Cardinals (2 Seed): It’s the rubber match! The Cardinals beat the 'Hawks in Seattle and Seattle returned the favor in Week 17 in Arizona. The Cardinals have the most potent offense to challenge Seattle and a stout defense as well. In fact, going into Week 17, Seattle and Arizona were the only two teams in the league to have their offenses and defenses in the Top 5 in the NFL. How we see it happening: While the outcome of this game isn’t as clear as the other two, it’s safe to say the 'Hawks are peaking at the right time whereas Arizona is grinding to a halt (they are coming off an imagined grudge match with the Packers the week before, winning in a shootout 39-32). Hawks win 24-22.
Super Bowl: One word: rematch. More on this as the playoffs play out. Go Hawks!
Updated January 4 at 2:32 p.m. to correctly identify Tyler Lockett and not Thomas Rawls.