#273 Minnesota Vikingsvs.#274 Pittsburgh Steelers
Written by Chris Kubala
Minnesota Vikings (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS, 1-0 O/U) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0 SU, 0-1 ATS, 0-1 O/U)
NFL: Sunday, September 17, 2017, Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1 pm ET
Spread: Pittsburgh -6; Over/Under: 45.5
It’s an inter-conference matchup in week 2 of the NFL schedule coming to you from the Steel City. The Minnesota Vikings head to the Keystone State as they take on the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday afternoon. Minnesota came up a 29-19 winner over the Saints at home on Monday Night Football in week 1. Pittsburgh had to struggle their way to a 21-18 win on the road over the Browns in an AFC North battle Sunday. The Vikings have a 9-7 edge in the all-time regular season series, including a 34-27 home win in the last meeting on September 29, 2013.
Remember last season when the Vikings started the year 5-0 only to drop eight of their final 11 to finish at .500 and out of the postseason? Minnesota looks to get out of the gates fast again after winning their opener over the Saints. The Vikings seized control of the game late in the first half with a pair of touchdown passes in the final five minutes turning a 6-3 deficit into a 16-6 lead. Minnesota held a 470-344 advantage in total yards and had 23 first downs to New Orleans’ 19. The Vikings’ defense kept them in the lead as they frustrated New Orleans in the red zone: the Saints had to settle for three field goals on drives that stalled inside the 10-yard line.
Sam Bradford was masterful under center as he carved up the New Orleans defense. He hit 27 of 32 passes for 346 yards plus three touchdowns in the game. Rookie running back Dalvin Cook, taken in the second round from Florida State, ran the ball 22 times for 127 yards in his NFL debut. Adam Thielen led Minnesota with nine receptions for 157 yards in the contest. Stefon Diggs added a big game as well: he reeled in seven balls for 93 yards and a couple scores. Kyle Rudolph (three catches, 27 yards) had the other touchdown reception while Cook (10 yards) and Jerick McKinnon (32 yards) each added three receptions as well. Kai Forbath was two of three on extra points while hitting all three field goal attempts from 24, 32 and 45 yards.
Pittsburgh looked sluggish and out of sync for long stretches in their opener. Fortunately for the Steelers, they were facing the lowly Browns and managed to escape with a three point win. That was a major disappointment given that they were a double digit favorite in the contest. Pittsburgh had only 290 yards of offense, though that outshined Cleveland’s 237 in the contest. The Steelers actually lost the first down battle 20-16 and the time of possession battle 31:10 to 28:50: had it not been for a blocked punt score, the Steelers may have come up a loser.
Ben Roethlisberger hit 24 of 36 throws for 263 yards with two touchdown passes and one interception. The run game was shut down as the team ran the ball 17 times for a collective 35 yards: LeVeon Bell was contained with 10 carries for 32 yards. Rookie James Conner, who made a splash in preseason, had four carries for 11 yards. Antonio Brown was his usual explosive self: he reeled in all 11 of his targets for 182 yards in the game. Tight end Jesse James, who was seemingly put on notice with the team trading for Vance McDonald, had six catches for 41 yards and two scores. First round pick T.J. Watt finished with seven tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and an interception in the game. Anthony Chickillo had two sacks and fell on a blocked punt in the end zone for a score as the Steelers defense totaled seven sacks. Chris Boswell connected on his three extra point attempts.
Minnesota looked much better than Pittsburgh did in the opening game of the season but there are things that point to a rebound for the Steelers. For one, the Steelers are at home where Roethlisberger has had much more success, especially in recent years. Second, Bell now has a little game action under his belt after holding out the entire preseason. Third, Bradford has to deal with the elements here after playing the opener in a dome. Those factors tend to push the needle the Steelers’ way in this contest.
Minnesota played about as well as they could in the opener. It’s tough to expect that level of performance on a week in, week out basis. There’s also a big change between facing a New Orleans defense that has looked like Swiss cheese over the past several years and the Steelers, who can get after the quarterback and shut down opposing run games. Roethlisberger plays better at Heinz Field as anyone that plays fantasy will tell you, which works in Pittsburgh’s favor as well. Can Bradford’s arm sustain drives if the winds kick up in the Steel City?
The under is 8-1 in the Vikings’ last 9 road games vs. a team with a winning home record, 6-1 in their last 7 games following a straight up win, 15-3 in their last 18 vs. a team with a winning record and 17-4 in their last 21 games in Week 2. Pittsburgh has seen the under go 11-1 in their last 12 games in Week 2, 4-1 in their last 5 games in September and 4-1 in their last 5 games after accumulating less than 90 yards rushing in their previous game. Defense rules the roost in this one and keeps the total under the number.
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Christopher Kubala has been crunching stats and following sports for over 30 years. His in depth analysis and passion for sports have led him to writing books about sports, regularly being featured on sports talk radio and as the go-to person for any obscure trivia. He keeps an eye on transactions and statistics like a hawk, especially when it comes to football, both the NFL and college, the NHL, the NBA and college basketball and MLB.