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Final Thoughts - Vikings vs. Steelers

Posted Sep 29, 2013

In every NFL matchup, there are a seemingly endless amount of angles to analyze. It’s hard to get to them all during the week of practice, and I’m sure there were some that slipped through the cracks despite all of the Vikings vs.  Steelers preview content we provided on vikings.com this week.

As we sit here just hours before the Vikings take on Pittsburgh in London, I thought I’d try to cover a few more bases and provide a few final thoughts on the Vikings game against the Steelers today.

-- For those of you distraught with the Vikings 0-3 start to the season and for those of you who’ve already begun thinking about the offseason and 2014, hold the phone for a second and consider this: There are only five teams in the NFC with winning records, and 10 of the NFC’s 16 teams have one or zero wins. This doesn’t excuse the team’s 0-3 start, but it does lend some perspective to the situation and it reaffirms that while the start has been disheartening, there’s still a long way to go. A win today against Pittsburgh would be a good way to start the climb back up the mountain.

-- I am sensing that this week’s matchup with the Steelers is going to provide the Vikings with an opportunity to get the ground game going. For starters, Pro Bowl fullback Jerome Felton returns to the lineup and that’s going to be a huge boost on its own. But secondarily, and I mean no disrespect to Pittsburgh’s personnel (they are allowing just 3.3 yards per carry, after all), the front the Vikings are going to see today does not match the talent that the Vikings have seen up front so far this season. The defensive tackles/nose guards the Vikings have seen from Detroit, Chicago and Cleveland have been some of the best in the NFL. I expect the Vikings three interior offensive linemen – left guard Charlie Johnson, center John Sullivan and right guard Brandon Fusco – to have their best game of the season today.

-- Speaking of the Vikings running game, don’t fret the “slow” start for Adrian Peterson. He does lead the NFL with three touchdown runs and he’s sixth in the NFL with 281 rushing yards, but we all have higher standards for the reigning MVP so the start is still consider slow. But last year through three games, Peterson had 51 fewer rushing yards on only 11 fewer carries, he had the same number of 100-yard games (one) and he didn’t have consecutive 100-yard games until Week 7 or Week 8. Hold off on your frustration with the Vikings running game. Peterson, Felton and the Minnesota Moving Company are about to get things going, I have a feeling.

-- My number one concern for the Vikings defense heading into this game is the speed of Pittsburgh’s wide receivers. With Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and Markus Wheaton, the Steelers have as fast a trio of receivers as anyone in the NFL. A healthy secondary would be challenged by this group, and the Vikings enter today’s game down two starters and short on depth. To me, this means the Vikings defensive line must step up and play big. The Vikings have invested heavily in their defensive line, particularly at defensive end with Jared Allen, Everson Griffen and Brian Robison, and this is a game they must impact. It’s not going to be good enough to just hit the quarterback after he throws it – they must hit Ben Roethlisberger while he has the ball and they must close on sacks.

-- Last point – the bye week. When the schedule came out, we complained about the first month or so for the Vikings. Starting out with consecutive road games within the division and then traveling to London in Week 4 for a “home” game meant the Vikings would be on the road for three of their first four regular season games. On top of it all, they got the dreaded early-season bye, which most teams and players don’t appreciate. But as it turns out, the Vikings are going to have a well-timed bye. After a week away from home to regroup and hopefully a tough, gritty win against a good team here in London, the Vikings have a chance to take a bye to rest, heal and regroup for what will be a challenging final 12 weeks of the season.

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