Minnesota Vikings vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Preview and Pick – Point Spread

Minnesota Vikings (6-0 SU, 4-2 ATS) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2 SU,
1-5 ATS), 1:00 p.m. EST, Sunday, October 25, 2009, Heinz Field,
Pittsburgh, Pa., TV: FOX

by Badger of Predictem.com

Point Spread: Vikings +4/Steelers -4
Over/Under: 45.5

The Fox Network gets to host the best game of the NFLs early Sunday
lineup this weekend when MVP quarterbacks Brett Favre and Ben
go head-to-head at Heinz Field as the undefeated
Minnesota Vikings take on the defending Super Bowl Champion
Pittsburgh Steelers.

Favre and the Vikings dodged a bullet to stay undefeated last Sunday
in their 33-31 victory over Baltimore when Ravens kicker Steven
Hauschka missed a game-winning field goal as time expired. The narrow
win may be masking some problems though, as the Vikings defense
allowed 21 points in the 4th quarter by the Ravens that erased a 17-
point lead and forced Favre and the offense into comeback mode in the
final two minutes.

The Steelers on the other hand are coming off of an easy win over their AFC North rival Cleveland Browns Sunday, winning the game 27-14
in a game that was never really as close as the score would indicate.
The Steelers defense welcomed All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu back into
the lineup and the unit returned to its dominate form, limiting the
Browns to 197 yards of total offense while collecting two sacks, two
picks and two fumbles.

The victory by the Steelers moved them into a tie with Cincinnati atop the AFC North Division with a 4-2 record, while the 6-0 Vikings
are currently enjoying a two-game lead in the NFC North Division.

The opening point spread for this game is very interesting, as
oddsmakers staked the Steelers as surprising 4-point favorites. You
would think a battle of two first-place teams would open a little
lower, but the oddsmakers may be looking at the Vikings injury report
(Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin and Antoine Winfield are all listed as
questionable). They also might be trying to balance the take, as now
that Favre is in Minnesota theyve become a heavy public favorite
each week, a similar situation he used to enjoy as the QB of the

The over/under total has seen a lot of line movement since it opened
at 44.5 late on Sunday. The early steam at the window shot the total
up a full point to 45.5 almost instantly, and now there are several
offshore sportsbooks and even a few books in Las Vegas that have
moved the number up to 46 already.

Even though the game features the best running back in the league in
Peterson and the Steelers vaunted power-running game, this game will
likely be decided by the big-name quarterbacks and their respective
passing attacks.

With every week that goes by you can see Favre growing more and more comfortable with his new core of receivers, especially Sidney Rice.
Favre threw for 278 yards and three touchdowns last week versus the
Ravens secondary, giving him almost 800 yards passing and seven TDs
in his last three games. The other thing Favre has brought to the
Vikings this year is quick-strike capabilities, as the Vikings are
ranked 2nd in the league in scoring at 31.5 points per game.

But with all of the accolades going to the 40-year-old QB lately,
its actually Roethlisberger that is putting up career-high numbers
in the air. He threw for 417 yards last week against the Browns, and
for the season the Steelers are 2nd in the NFL with 296.7 yards
passing per game. They have also turned in their share of big plays,
as the rank right behind the Vikings in scoring at 23.3 points per
game (4th).

Defensively these two are mirror images of each other. Both stop the run first (Pitt. 2nd 74.3 ypg; Minn. 9th 93.5 ypg), give up a
little of yardage through the air (Pitt. 13th 200.8 ypg; Minn. 24th
248.3 ypg), but remain pretty stingy when it comes to scoring
(Pitt. 11th 18.7 ppg; Minn. 18th 20.2 ppg).

The key for the Vikings will be the health of Winfield because most
of Baltimores yardage and points in the fourth quarter last week
came after he left the game with his toe injury. If hes capable and
ready to go on Sunday, his cover skills allow the Vikings to bring
more pressure and tilt half the field with safeties over the top to
the other side.

The historical head-to-head matchup data between these two squads is surprisingly limited through the years. They have met four times in
the preseason since 2001, but only six times in the regular season
going back all the way to 1986. Pittsburgh won the last meeting back
in 2005 by an 18-3 score (as 4.5-point favorites), but that was
before Peterson and before Favre and Roethlisberger was in his second
year at Pittsburgh, so relating any of those numbers to this week is
comparing apples to oranges.

For the record, the six regular season meetings have been split 3-3 SU, with the Vikings holding a 4-2 ATS edge. The under is 5-1 in the
same six games.

The Vikings have covered the point spread in their last four road games, while the Steelers are 6-2 ATS in their last eight home games
at Heinz Field.

Badgers Pick: I fully expect both teams to attack the opposing defense through the air, since it is the path of least resistance for
both teams. Especially if Winfield is unable to go, or limited by his
bad toe. With all of that stoppage time due to incompletions, it will
make the over a solid play even though the total has moved up a point-
and-a-half already. Take the over of 45.5 and lock it in right now
before it moves up more.