NFL 2017 Week 2: Minnesota Vikings vs. Pittsburgh Steelers preview and prediction

One of the more intriguing Week 2 matchups pits the Vikings, riding high off a stellar performance in Week 1, against the AFC powerhouse Steelers, also 1-0.

Week 1 recap

The Vikings posted one of the most complete performances of any team in Week 1 in a 29-19 victory at home over New Orleans. The defense did a nice job of containing any big plays and tightening up in the red zone, holding the Saints to only four field goals and a garbage time touchdown. But it was the offense that was the real revelation, as Sam Bradford zipped strikes to Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs all night long while rookie Dalvin Cook had a huge debut running behind a revamped offensive line.

In a surprisingly close contest, the Steelers barely held off Cleveland 21-18 in their season opener. Although Pittsburgh never trailed, the game was still in doubt in the fourth quarter when a late Browns score cut the lead to three points with over three minutes to play. But the Steelers were able to hold onto the ball for the remainder of the game for the win. A blocked punt recovered in the end zone gave Pittsburgh their first lead, and Ben Roethlisberger tossed two touchdowns to tight end Jesse James. Antonio Brown had 182 yards receiving on 11 catches, including a long reception in the final drive to help run out the clock.

Key Areas

Time For Bell To Toll – Whether it was rust after sitting out the preseason due to contract issues or simply an enthusiastic performance by the Cleveland front, Le’Veon Bell didn’t look like one of the league’s top weapons in Week 1. He amassed just 47 total yards from scrimmage, which, from a guy who ripped it up for 337 yards rushing in two playoff wins last year, is a weak total. The Steelers need him in this one, because the Vikings present a much sterner test than Cleveland.

Are They For Real? – For those who might be anointing the Vikings as Super Bowl contenders after how good they looked on Monday night, it might be best to tap the brakes. After all, this was a team that jumped out to a 5-0 start a year ago before injuries and weaknesses start to crop up all over the place. In particular, it will be interesting to see how the Vikings offense stacks up this week against a defense in Pittsburgh that will provide much more resistance.

Line Play – This game could be decided by which team makes the right adjustments on the offensive line. The Vikes revamped crew, with free agent starters at both tackle spots and a rookie at center, gelled nicely on Monday, but the 3-4 “Blitzburgh” defense will present them with lots of wrinkles. Meanwhile the Steelers line has something to prove after the team managed just two offensive touchdowns in Cleveland, in part because of an anemic running game.

Matchup to Watch

Steelers WR Antonio Brown vs. Vikings CB Xavier Rhodes – 11 catches for 182 yards, including an acrobatic fourth-quarter reception to essentially clinch the game: It was just another ho-hum week for Antonio Brown. Rhodes meanwhile is a lockdown guy who helped limit the effectiveness of Michael Thomas in Week 1. Rhodes doesn’t usually stray from his right corner spot, so the Steelers can move Brown around to avoid him. But it should be fun to watch when they do lock horns.

Fantasy football tip

Steelers WR Martavis Bryant – Bryant’s return from suspension was a quiet one last week, as he caught just two passes for 14 yards. Still, there will be weeks when he’ll explode for several big plays, and this could be one of them, especially of Brown runs into Rhodes and Bryant gets the chance to show off his deep speed against Vikings corner Trae Waynes.

Prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers 20-17 Minnesota Vikings

This should be a doozy, but the Steelers are awful tough to beat at home, meaning the Vikings might have to settle for a near-miss in this excellent contest.

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Jim Beviglia

Jim is a freelance writer concentrating on music and sports. He is the author of four books and writes for several online and print publications. He lives in Old Forge, Pennsylvania with his wife Marie and his daughter Daniele.