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Week 4 Preview: Vikings vs Pittburgh Steelers
This isn't exactly the start to the season we were all hoping for, was it? Visions(perhaps delusional, in hindsight) of a return to the playoffs danced in the heads of many fans just a little over three weeks ago. Yet, after three straight weeks of disappointment, the road to the playoffs is looking mighty treacherous, if passable at all. This week the Vikings "host" the Steelers in a "home game" being played at Wembley Stadium in London. It probably won't have the same type of atmosphere the Vikings are accustomed to for home games, but after the rough start, maybe it's not such a bad thing. The boo-birds were out in full force last week -- for good reason, mind you -- and it's hard to imagine they'll show up in the UK. The good news is that the Steelers are also 0-3 and have their own laundry list of issues to deal with. They'll still be a tough team, however, so here's what we're looking for this week.
Matt Cassel takes over
It probably didn't happen the way they were hoping it would, but those who were calling for Matt Cassel to get the start are getting their wish. Christian Ponder's fractured rib "situation" will keep him out of today's game and he's officially listed as "week to week". Cassel will take over(at least on an interim basis) for Ponder, who was inconsistent at best during his first three starts of this season. So far this season, he's amassed 2 touchdowns(none to receivers), 5 interceptions, and average of 230 yards per game, and a quarterback rating of 65.9. That rating, amazingly, is actually less than his preseason rating of 70.1 -- a preseason that did nothing to bolster faith in Ponder. Cassel's preseason rating was 78.9. He played more this preseason than any other QB, and was also wildly inconsistent while he was on the field. Just like Ponder, Cassel had throws that were on target, and throws that were well off the mark. One thing Cassel has that Ponder doesn't is experience. This is Cassel's ninth year in the league and he's been a starter for the past five seasons. He made it to the Pro Bowl in 2010 while playing for the Chiefs in a season where he had 27 touchdowns against only 7 interceptions and had an overall rating of 93.0. Statistically, Cassel and Ponder really aren't that different when you look at the span of their careers. Christian completes 59.2% of his passes, while Matt completes 58.9% of his. Christian has thrown for 182.6 yards per game, while Matt has thrown for 173.0. Christian has a career QB rating of 75.8, while Matt has a career QB rating of 80.4. When it comes to TD/INT ratios, Ponder is nearly at 1:1, while Matt(thanks to a few good seasons and a few mediocre ones) is closer to 1.5:1. Either way, hopefully Cassel can protect the ball against a solid Steelers defense and maybe even provide a spark for this team.
Vikings Secondary vs Big Ben
Not the clock, the player! Chris Cook and Jamarca Sanford have been downgraded to OUT for this game, which means they'll be starting two backups. The Steelers have been awful running the ball this year(51.7 ypg, 30th in the league) so they're stuck passing the ball frequently. That bodes well for a team facing a few backups for a secondary that's allowed 315 yards per game(28th in the league). Pittsburgh cracks the top 10 at spot #9 with 258 passing yards per game. Roethlisberger has thrown 4 interceptions over the first three games(1 less than Ponder, 4th most in the NFL) as well as 4 touchdowns. We know the Steelers will be throwing the ball. How will the Vikings go about slowing it down?
Adrian Peterson finally gets loose?
So far this season, Adrian's averaging a "paltry" 93.7 yards per game on the ground. It's not really anything to sneeze at, but he's well off pace for his August goal of 2,500 yards, let alone 2,000. At his current rate he's on pace for just about 1,500 yards -- 1,499 to be exact. I wouldn't necessarily bet my money that he'll continue at his current pace, especially now that he has Pro Bowl fullback Jerome Felton back in front of him, hopefully paving the way for big gains. The Steelers run defense isn't quite the immovable object that it has been in the past. This year they're giving up 115.3 yards on the ground(24th in the league), while facing Chris Johnson, BenJarvus Green Ellis, and Matt Forte. They haven't yet allowed a 100 yard back, but this could possibly be the game. Assuming the Vikings will stick with the run first formula, Peterson will get plenty of opportunities to showcase his MVP talent on the international stage. We'll be curious to see if he makes the most of it.
Today's game against the Steelerss kicks off from Wembley Stadium in London at noon central on the FAN(6pm in London, if you're curious). Paul Allen and Pete Bercich will handle the call from across the pond on 100.3FM here in the Twin Cities and across the Vikings Radio Network.
Check out the graphic to the left. It was created by "FRANSCRAM", a regular in Purple Chat. Check out the other submissions in this week's competition on Purple Chat. Have a fresh idea for next week's game? Pay attention to Purple Chat for next week's Gameday Graphic thread. Did we miss out on a major plot line for today's game? Tell us below or on Purple Chat.
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This article was written by jab. You can normally find him meandering around Rube Chat. Or feel free to email him at email@example.com.