Vikings-Steelers game plan

Who would have uttered this statement a couple years ago: The Vikings and Steelers could be all about their air attacks. Plus, we assess a handful of the top matchups to watch.

VIKINGS


The Vikings passed a significant test and managed to stay unbeaten last Sunday by sneaking past the Baltimore Ravens, 33-31, thanks to a missed 44-yard field goal attempt by kicker Steven Hauschka as time expired.

But things figure to get even tougher this weekend against the defending Super Bowl champions on their home turf.

That is especially true considering the Vikings pass defense is giving up an average of 248.3 yards per game to rank 24th in the NFL and will be facing the league's second-ranked passing offense in the Steelers. Pittsburgh is averaging 296.7 passing yards per game. The potential absence of Pro Bowl cornerback Antoine Winfield could make things even more inviting to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Of course, this doesn't mean life will be easy for the Steelers.

Veteran quarterback Brett Favre has played like an MVP through six games and the Steelers third-ranked defense is going to get an excellent test in trying to contain the Vikings' pass game and/or Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson, who rushed for 143 yards on 22 carries last week against the Ravens' normally stout run defense.

If the Steelers put their focus on stopping Peterson, like most teams do, Favre has the ability to gouge them in the passing game.

STEELERS

Pittsburgh, the NFL's fifth-ranked passing offense, won't be shy throwing the ball against the Vikings, who are better at stopping the run. The one thing they must do, however, is neutralize Jared Allen. On defense, they will concentrate on stopping Adrian Peterson with the knowledge that quarterback Brett Favre could be waiting to throw on them.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

Vikings QB Brett Favre, who has thrown 12 touchdowns and only two interceptions this season, vs. Steelers S Troy Polamalu, who had seven interceptions in 2008 and has two this year in two games. Favre managed to avoid being intercepted by Baltimore standout safety Ed Reed last Sunday and will try to do the same against another one of the AFC's best safeties. Favre has been outstanding so far, but if anything, that is going to give Polamalu additional motivation.

Vikings LB Chad Greenway, who is tied for the team lead with two interceptions, vs. Steelers TE Heath Miller, who is second in the NFL among tight ends with 34 receptions. Greenway is going to need help from his fellow linebackers and safeties, but the Vikings have given up some big receiving games to tight ends this season and the Steelers are certainly going to try to take advantage by throwing the ball to Miller. The Ravens only completed three passes to tight end Todd Heap last week, but that was as many times as they threw him the ball. Look for Ben Roethlisberger to target Miller far more often Sunday.

Vikings RB Adrian Peterson vs. Steelers run defense. Pittsburgh has not allowed a 100-yard rusher in the past 28 games, including playoffs.

Vikings RDE Jared Allen vs. Steelers OT Max Starks. Allen has 7.5 sacks and Starks has gotten better at left tackle.

Vikings RB Chester Taylor vs. Steelers pass defense. Taylor is their third-down back with 21 receptions, and the aggressive Steelers pass-rushers have had trouble with screens and the like.


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