For Vikings, Harvin matchup a wild card

November, 14, 2013
11/14/13
9:35
AM ET
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings continue to insist Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks isn't solely about them facing Percy Harvin, their former teammate who looks like he could come back from a hip injury just in time to settle old scores with the Vikings. And in a technical sense, they're right.

For the Vikings, the Seahawks present matchup problems that extend far beyond Harvin; they'll play their second straight game against a quarterback (Russell Wilson) who can make plays with his feet, run the read-option and confuse defenses. A run defense that has been shredded for 409 yards in its past three games will have to contain Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, and assuming Christian Ponder starts at quarterback, he'll face one of the league's best defenses at the site of one of his worst games in the NFL.

[+] EnlargePercy Harvin
AP Photo/Ted S. WarrenThe Vikings aren't sure what to expect from their former receiver, Percy Harvin, who is expected to be in Seattle's lineup on Sunday.
But the potential return of Harvin adds another element to the matchup, especially given the likelihood the receiver isn't regarding this as just another game. Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said he and Harvin left on good terms, adding he texted the receiver to wish him well after the Vikings traded Harvin to Seattle in March, but it was tough to disguise the tension that existed between the mercurial receiver and the team after several confrontations, including one in Seattle last year where Harvin screamed at Frazier on the sidelines.

"If that's what he wants to do, that's what he wants to do," defensive end Brian Robison said of Harvin putting extra emphasis on the game. "I know Percy is the type of guy that's going to play hard no matter who he's playing, and it will mean a little more to him, but the bottom line is in our minds, our defense has to get after their offense."

The Vikings also have no idea how the Seahawks will use Harvin, since he hasn't played a game with the team yet. Wilson said in a conference call on Wednesday that he's not going to change his reads to force the ball to Harvin, but the Vikings know as well as anyone how versatile the receiver can be, whether he's getting the ball on kickoff returns, out of the backfield or lined up wide.

And if he's in the slot, he could find a favorable matchup against Josh Robinson, whom Pro Football Focus rates as the worst slot cornerback in the league this season. Robinson has improved there lately, and Marcus Sherels could also help him out, but a healthy Harvin represents as tough a potential matchup as the Vikings could see in a slot receiver.

"He's a tough guy. He's strong and also very fast, elusive," Robinson said. "He's a guy that has a lot of talent, one of the best I ever faced. I look forward to the challenge."

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll still isn't confirming Harvin will play, but a three-word tweet from Harvin -- "It's go time" -- might have betrayed the Seahawks' intentions on Tuesday afternoon. If he's back, he's certainly going to give the Vikings plenty to think about.

"You really don't (know what he'll do) because he's coming off an injury," Frazier siad. "You don't know how far along he is, so it's hard to say. We did so many diffent things with him -- will they try to do some of those things? It's really hard to say."

Ben Goessling

ESPN Minnesota Vikings reporter

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