Big opportunity for Christine Michael with Marshawn Lynch sidelined

Seattle coach Pete Carroll on running back Christine Michael: "He's just come to work every day. He's really serious about fitting in, and it feels like he's matured ..." AP Photo/Rick Scuteri

Seattle Seahawks running back Christine Michael likely ended Friday's practice expecting to play a rotational role Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.

But now he has a huge opportunity to make the most of what has been a roller-coaster season. With Marshawn Lynch not traveling with the team, Michael will be the starter in the Seahawks' wild-card playoff game, and he will more than likely be called on to carry a heavy workload.

Michael rejoined the team for the final three games of the season, carrying 39 times for 192 yards (4.92 YPC). Perhaps most impressive was the fact that he averaged 3.41 yards after contact, the top mark in the league over that span.

"Definitely disciplined," said assistant head coach/offensive line Tom Cable when asked what stood out from last week's performance. "I think he’s really tried to capture his opportunity. I’m really proud of him that he saw what it is, and he’s kind of been around, here and there, and then he came back. And he’s really tried to be what we’ve always asked him to be. And so I’m really happy for him."

The Seahawks traded Michael to the Dallas Cowboys in September. They eventually released him, and he caught on with Washington's practice squad before returning.

A month ago, this looked like a lost year for the former second-round pick. But suddenly, Michael has a chance to jump-start his career as the Seahawks look to go on a postseason run.

"He’s kind of almost reinvented himself," said offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. "I know I said -- maybe it was last week or two weeks ago -- still a small sample size, but really like the direction that he’s heading in. He’s doing a nice job of just managing himself, not being distracted. The football is important to him, so he’s working really hard on the details that we’ve asked him to. And I think just being in those other situations where he’s kind of bounced around a little bit and come back, I think he kind of sees the importance of it. So it’s always great to have the hindsight, and he’s coming out and he’s proven it to us. We’ve been willing to hand him the ball a number of times. He’s performed well for us, so really love the direction that he’s heading that way."

Ball security will be critical Sunday afternoon. Pete Carroll talked this week about how the cold weather can lead to more turnovers. But the conditions will also be conducive to a heavy ground attack.

During the regular season, the Seahawks averaged 31.2 rushes per game, third most in the NFL. The Vikings' defense ranked 18th against the run, according to Football Outsiders. If the Seahawks leave Minnesota with a victory, chances are Michael will be one of the major reasons why.

"I think he’s more humble than he was," Carroll said. "I think he was really trying to be flashy and all of that. He’s just come to work every day. He’s really serious about fitting in, and it feels like he’s matured in the sense that makes him a great candidate to play for us. We’re really excited about him."