Stillers vs. Vikings Preview (Game #11)
The 8-2 Pittsburgh Stillers return home to face the Vikings, who are coming off a sluggish loss to Chicago on MNF. I've spent considerable time all week perusing the Vikes and mulling over this game. I've come to a conclusion that the Vikes are such a perplexing, Jekyl & Hyde team that there's no much sense in doing a detailed breakdown. This week's preview will be shorter and more to the point.
* When the Dykings have the ball, they�ll need to go with the airborne scheme of offense if they have any hope of winning this game. Michael Bennett is the starting RB, and simply isn't the kind of back, nor is the Viking O-line, capable of having success against the Stiller front 7. Moreover, hulking FB J. Kleinsasser is hampered with injury, and is questionable for this game. The key matchup, plain and simple, is the heat applied to QB D. Culpepper, and the coverage on star receivers Carter and Moss. The heat has got to be a sensible effort from the front 7, in that someone has got to be spying & rushers have to maintain lanes and play smart, to preclude Culpepper from running for gobs of yardage. But make no mistake, if the rush approaches anything as soft as last week's scheme, in which def. coord. Tim Lewis decided to go soft with loads of 4-man rushes, Culpepper is more than capable of shredding this defense. Randy Moss has been in a bit of a slump lately, but Moss certainly is capable at any given moment to snap out of his funk and make big things happen. Chad Scott, DW, and Brent will have their hands full trying to stop the dynamic duo, and Flowers will have another stern test against TE Byron Chamberlain.
* When the Stillers have the ball, they'll show up with an offense that has really matured the past 3-4 weeks. The passing game is truly rounding into form. The key matchup, plain and simple, will be the Stillers power offense against the Viking's front 7. Frankly, I can't see how the Vikes can possibly handle the tough, power-running scheme of the Stiller O-line, FB, and RB. At least on paper, this looks like a mismatch of monumental proportions. And if the Dykes decide to bring the kitchen sink up near the line to stop the run, this stiller passing offense should, given its play the past 6 weeks, torch what is a very average secondary.
* Spec Teams: What's next�? Another blocked punt? A blocked FG? A long enemy runback? The possibilities are endless. Who's providing adult supervision on these spec teams during practice�.? Troy Edwards is coming off a week in which he was named the AFC Spec Teams player of the week, but that aside, the spec teams continue to be an unmitigated disaster.
* Synopsis: The Vikes are one of the only teams (if not the only) that Cowher has yet to beat. The last meeting was the infamous '96 "12 men on the field" incident, in which Cowher stuffed the photo of the actual truth inside the shirt of the referee. Of course, the Vikes went on in the 2nd half and totally annihilated the Stillers at home. The Vikes have had to deal with the heartbreaking death of OT Corey Stringer, and are now in the throes of team dissension revolving around Carter and Moss, amongst others. On the Stillers side of the coin, this game scares me, not with the actual basics of blocking and tackling, but rather the chance of over-confidence and complacency. The Stillers are on the cover of the just-released Sporting News, and they've zoomed up to #1 in the latest "NFL Power Rankings". These kind of things can certainly make a team complacent and cocky, although this 2001 Stiller gang doesn't give me the impression that they plan on allowing that to happen. With that last thought, the Stillers will dominate the trenches on both sides of the ball, and will prove to be too physical for the softee Vikings to handle, giving the Dykes a solid 20-13 beating.