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3 players to watch in Seahawks’ Monday night showdown vs Vikings

Will the Seahawks' defense take a step forward in 2019? (AP)

The Seahawks (7-5) will face off against the Minnesota Vikings (6-5-1) for a Monday Night showdown on Dec. 10. The Seahawks’ odds of making the postseason can improve to over 98 percent with a win – but that’s easier said than done against a Vikings team that ranks seventh overall against the run.

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Here are three players to watch when these two teams meet in primetime:

LB Mychal Kendricks

Monday night marks the first return to the field in eight weeks for linebacker Mychal Kendricks, who was suspended by the league Oct. 2.

Kendricks has been able to practice with the team for the past two weeks and head coach Pete Carroll indicated Thursday that Kendricks would be able to play the majority of defensive snaps. His return comes at an ideal time for a Seahawks team that will enter another week without starting weak-side linebacker K.J. Wright, who has been sidelined by a knee injury.

Kendricks’ return coincidentally marks a family reunion – the Seahawks linebacker’s brother, Eric Kendricks, is a linebacker for the Vikings.

“It is pretty special,” Mychal Kendricks said of playing his brother. “It is special in a sense that during a hard time like this, you lean on those that love you. You lean on those that have been there all your life and it’s emotional coming back. What better way to come back than to play a loved one? It is special.”

G Jordan Simmons

Starting right guard D.J. Fluker (hamstring) has officially been listed as “doubtful” on the Seahawks’ final injury report, but Carroll told KIRO Radio 97.3 FM on Friday morning that he wouldn’t play. With Fluker out, the Seahawks will turn to Jordan Simmons.

Simmons’ first NFL start came earlier this year in a 36-31 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 10. Despite the final score, Simmons and the rest of Seattle’s offensive line performed well, finishing with 273 rushing yards against a defensive front that included Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald, the latter of whom may just finish the season as 2018’s Defensive Player of the Year.

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At 6-feet-5 and 340-pounds, Fluker’s size makes him a force on the line. But there’s not a huge gap between he and the 6-5, 335-pound Simmons.

“We have no hesitation in playing him,” Carroll said of Simmons Saturday. “We played him against the toughest three-technique you can play against (Suh) and he held his own pretty well. We’re going to expect him to do it again. He’s got a very tough group to go against here now, but he feels more comfortable about it. Having the whole week of preparation was really important for him and he’s just going to keep getting better.”

The Seahawks’ secondary

The Vikings are the only team in the current NFC playoff standings that ranks lower than No. 20 in rushing offense. In fact, with just 1,033 yards on the ground this season, Minnesota owns the third-lowest rushing total league-wide.

Still, the Vikings are 6-5-1 and currently hold the sixth and final wild card spot just behind fifth-seeded Seattle. The reason? Their receiver group, lead by Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, has been phenomenal. It’s also what makes Monday’s contest an especially important challenge for Seattle’s secondary.

Thielen, 28, is second only to Atlanta’s Julio Jones in receiving yards this season (1,166) and both Thielen and Diggs rank in the top seven receivers in targets. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, meanwhile, ranks second league-wide in pass attempts (491) and completion percentage (71.3).

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