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NFL Minnesota Vikings

NFL Week 9: Five Minnesota Vikings To Watch vs. Seattle

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NFL Week 9: Five Minnesota Vikings To Watch Against The Seattle Seahawks

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Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE

The Minnesota Vikings enter Week 9 with a 5-3 record, but a surprisingly one-sided loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home in Week 8 has taken away some of the positive buzz they had after a 4-1 start. They are tied for second in the NFC North right now, which most people would have been satisfied with at the halfway point of the season if that was offered as a possibility prior to Week 1.

With a long week to fix their recent issues on both sides of the ball, the Vikings will travel to take on the 4-4 Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks are themselves coming off a loss in Week 8, 28-24 to the Detroit Lions, and are currently tied for second in the NFC West.

CenturyLink Field is traditionally one of the toughest road environments in the league, and the Seahawks generally feed off the energy of the crowd and play above their talent level. In fact the Seahawks are 3-0 at home this season, with all three games qualifying as upset wins over the Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots. Of course the Week 3 win over the Packers was controversial, but it still counts in the win column.

The Vikings will certainly need to put together a precise and disciplined performance all the way around on Sunday to have a chance to win, which has been a challenge over the last few weeks. Here are five players I feel are vital to Minnesota coming home with a victory in Week 9.

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5. LB Chad Greenway

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Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE

The Vikings have had trouble tackling over their past couple games, and now they get a matchup with Seahawks’ running back Marshawn Lynch. Lynch is second in the NFL in rushing yards with 757, and has also induced 28 missed tackles so far this season. Minnesota will have to contain Lynch to take the Seahawks’ offense off-schedule, and that starts with the linebackers and more specifically Greenway. The 2011 Pro Bowler has a league-high 81 total tackles this season along with two sacks, so a strong performance from him on Sunday is virtually mandatory for the Vikings to leave Seattle with a win.

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4. CB Josh Robinson

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Bruce Kluckhohn-US PRESSWIRE

With Chris Cook (arm) now likely sidelined for the rest of the regular season, Robinson will now step into a starting role. The rookie out of Central Florida has had some good moments thus far as the Vikings’ nickelback, with 31 total tackles and one interception, and how he handles moving up the depth chart will be a big factor for the Vikings’ defense in Week 9 and down the road. The Seahawks do not have a particularly prolific pass offense, but they are not afraid to take shots down the field and Robinson will be challenged to hold up in coverage when he finds himself matched up against former Vikings’ wide receiver Sidney Rice.

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3. LT Matt Kalil

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Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE

Kalil has proved his mettle as a pass protector this season, and another challenge will come this week against Seahawks’ defensive end Chris Clemons. Clemons has been an active pass rusher so far this season, with seven sacks, plenty of hurries and knockdowns as well as three batted down passes. Kalil’s ability to contain Clemons as well as avoid mental mistakes in what will be a loud stadium will be a big key for the Minnesota offense.

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2. TE Kyle Rudolph

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Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE

Rudolph’s five touchdowns on the season place him among the league leaders among tight ends, but he has just two catches for 17 over the past two games. Minnesota’s offensive troubles definitely go beyond Rudolph, but his lack of involvement has coincided with two dismal performances. Getting him back involved has to be a priority for Vikings’ offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave on Sunday, and Seattle has been generous to opposing tight ends in recent weeks. Rudolph is one of the only offensive players the Vikings have that can be a big mismatch for an opposing defense, and his contributions as a blocker will be key as well this week.

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1. QB Christian Ponder

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Bruce Kluckhohn-US PRESSWIRE

Ponder’s performance is clearly trending downward after a solid start to the season, as issues in pass protection and a lack of downfield playmakers have caught up to the Vikings’ offense over the last few games. Hopes for a turnaround look dismal this week, as the Seahawks are fifth in the league in total defense (312 yards per game) as well as third in scoring defense (16.8 points per game). Ponder's ability to command the offense in a tough environment and avoid negative plays will be essential to any success the Vikings have moving the ball on Sunday. There seems to be little question Ponder will remain the Vikings’ starting quarterback for the rest of the season as long as he is healthy, but another poor performance will certainly start the talk of turning to backup Joe Webb.