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NFL Wild Card preview: Battle in the frozen North

Welcome to the 2016 playoffs! It’s the road to the Superbowl, and we’re kicking off with the wildcard matchup between the Minnesota Viki


Welcome to the 2016 playoffs! It’s the road to the Superbowl, and we’re kicking off with the wildcard matchup between the Minnesota Vikings and the Seattle Seahawks. Both teams have very clear intentions of going all the way on this, and this is going to be a big match, with major physicality. With the game taking place in the Vikings hometown, there’s a lot of pressure on the local boys to walk this one, but the Seahawks are back for their third shot at the Lombardi in three years, so they won’t take this lying down. With that in mind, let’s get down to some brass tacks. Keys to the game 1 – The Running Game Adrian Peterson is rated as the no1 for rushing yards this season, with no sign of intending to slow down anytime soon. Marshawn Lynch is much further down the rankings, but he’s been out for a large amount of the season with injuries. He’s reported to be back to full fitness and ready to earn his ‘Beast mode’ moniker. With both teams being ground game powerhouses, this is looking to be where the game will be decided. 2 – The weather It’s January in Minneapolis. Have you ever been to Minneapolis in January? It’s cold. I’m surprised that they aren’t playing in five feet of snow this Sunday. Cold weather makes people sluggish. If there’s moisture in the air, it makes the balls slippery, and it affects the way the ball handles. With this in mind, there are going to be a fair few fumbles, and both teams are going to try and keep the ball on the ground to avoid any problems. Expect few passes, and lots of power runs. 3 – Injury concerns This is the road to the Superbowl. Any injuries picked up at this stage could well be devastating for any hopes of picking up the Lombardi at the end of the day. This can lead to some luke-warm play during the playoff stages, with each team doing their best to avoid damaging their play-makers, and star rushers. This is unlikely in this game, especially with Lynch looking to come back with major impact. However, don’t be surprised if some of the plays are conservative. Expect this to be a game where they use all four downs.   Matchup to watch Marshawn Lynch vs Adrian Peterson Normally, we’re required to pick genuine matchups that will happen physically on the field. So let me phrase it another way. Lynch / Peterson vs everyone the opposing D This entire match is going to focus on these two players going head to head. With Peterson clearly at the head of the rushing game this season, and Lynch way behind due to health issues, this is where it’s going to be at. Both players are going to go out on that field with one thing on their mind, proving who is the top rusher in the game right now. Expect Lynch to be powering through groups of players on those last ditch drives, and Peterson to be tearing past whole layers of defence one at a time on the way to the endzone. Everyone is going to get a chance at putting hands on these guys, and everyone is going to want to be the guy that stops them. The real head to head will be between these two on the scoreboard.   Outcome All week we’ve been discussing this in the Realsport NFL bunker. Who’s going to come out on top? The ascendant Vikings, looking to push their way back to the top, and regain the glory? The Seahawks, looking for their next Superbowl, to take away the bad taste of last year’s defeat? I know this is the unpopular move, but I’m going with the Vikings on this one. They’re at Home, playing in weather that they are more than acclimatised to, against a team that they lost to earlier in the season. The Seahawks might well have Lynch, but the Vikings defence know how to shut plays down, and have proven that this season. With Peterson running the rushing game all year, and a pretty tasty record on the passing game, the Vikings are looking like the whole package for me. They’re the underdogs here, and they play best when people think they’re beaten. Out of all of the wildcard games being played this weekend, I know which one I will be watching!


NFL Wild Card preview: Battle in the frozen North

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