HBO’s Inside the NFL host Chris Collinsworth picked the Vikings to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers today. His co-host and former Minnesota Vikings receiver Cris Carter wouldn’t go that far. I will, of course, because the Vikings have an excellent chance to win this game.
It’s a safe assumption, after the Steelers beat the Bears by running the Bus down their thoats last week, that Pittsburgh will try and do the same this week against the Vikings; especially with Ben Roethlisberger nursing what everyone thinks is a broken thumb on his throwing hand. The Steelers have not had a deep passing game, so it’s also a safe assumption that the reason is Roethlisberger simply can’t throw the ball that far.
That’s good, because it allows the Vikes to focus on shutting down the run against a tough running team. The chatter has been that we’ve got to shut down bruising running back Jerome Bettis but if I’m Cowher, I’d put the rock in Willie Parker‘s hands because it makes more sense to start the faster back on the Field Turf of the Metrodome.
Regardless of whose in there for the Steelers, I’m confident of the Vikings ability to keep the running game in check. Pat Williams has been a monster this year and despite the excellent play of rookie DT C.J. Mosely, we get Kevin Williams back from injury today and that will definitely help.
This will be a game of ball control and field position for both teams. The Steelers want to run run run and the Vikings will want to run just enough to make the play-action-pass believable. And if the game will turn on field position, I’ll take the Vikings for three reasons: Robinson, Moore, and Kluwe.
If Koren Robinson and Mewelde Moore have some good kick returns today, it will go a long way toward putting the Vikings offense in position to put some points on the board. I’m not going to go all hating on punter Darren Bennett because he did us a favor last week by playing for the injured Chris Kluwe, or as we Vikings fans have taken to calling him: The Franchise. It was glaringly apparent how much we miss Kluwe’s 45 yard average last week. We get him back this week and if he continues the way he’s been playing all year, he will help set up a long field from which the Steelers must start their drives.
Finally, quarterback Brad Johnson has just found a way to win since he took over for Daunte Culpepper. It don’t always look pretty but a win’s a win and it’s hard not to feel confident in Johnson’s veteran savvy.