The NFL certainly did not envision two 0-3 teams playing in the first game in London this season, but that’s exactly what will happen when the Minnesota Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers kickoff on Sunday. Many of the same issues have led to each team failing to get a win, most notably offensively with turnovers and struggles to protect the quarterback a common thread.
Here are some numbers to track during Sunday’s game, which I feel will go a long way toward determing who heads back to the United States with their first win of the season.
316- The Vikings enter Week 4 28th in the league against the pass (315.7 yards per game), though they have intercepted six passes (tied for most in the league) so far this season. Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for 406 yards in Week 3 against the Chicago Bears, and with injuries possibly hampering Minnesota’s secondary he is in line for another big game.
16- This is not a statistic, but the jersey number of Vikings’ backup quarterback Matt Cassel. Starter Christian Ponder reportedly suffered a rib injury during last Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns, opening the door for a potential quarterback switch without officially benching Ponder for his lackluster play to this point.
4- The Vikings only have four sacks this season, led by two from linebacker Erin Henderson, so their defensive line has to step up in this game against a makeshift offensive line for Pittsburgh.
3- Since a 78-yard touchdown run on his first carry of the season against the Detroit Lions, Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson has averaged just three yards per carry on his last 68 carries. There’s no doubt he’ll see 20 or more carries on Sunday regardless of who is under center, but the Steelers have been tough against the run (3.3 yards per carry). If Peterson is able to break one or two long runs against an aggressive Pittsburgh defense, the Vikings stand to gain a huge advantage.
0- The Steelers are one of just four teams in the league without a rushing touchdown this season, as the combination of Felix Jones, Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman have been largely ineffective. Rookie running back Le’Veon Bell is slated to make his regular season debut after being sidelined by a foot injury, but how much he plays, and how effective he will be, is a question.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.