Giants/Cardinals again? Nope, I can't rightly call that the Week 7 Marquee Game. Bears/Bengals is nice, as is Eagles/Redskins, but I felt compelled to choose:
Minnesota Vikings @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Over/Under: 45 1/2
Line: Steelers by 5 1/2
Come on, you have to agree that this is the Marquee Game! Last year's Super Bowl winners against the off-season's biggest story?! Yeah! Great run defense against the league's best runner? Yessir! Troy Polamalu versus Brett Favre? Oh yeah!
Sorry for that little outburst, but this game really does get me all excited. The Vikings have gotten off to a not-entirely-unexpected 6-0 start, while Pittsburgh after struggling early, sits tied for their division lead at 4-2. Who doesn't like to see two very good teams play?
As good as both offenses have been thus far, this game will be decided on defense. Brett Favre may have gotten about 6 years younger for the Vikings, but Heinz Field is as hostile an environment to play as there is, and that Steelers defense is the real deal. Sorry Brett, but you're going to feel 40 after this one. The Steelers have stopped the run extremely well all season, and Polamalu's return only makes that unit better. Adrian Peterson is an incredible talent, but he has been proven to struggle against true top-shelf defenses, which Pittsburgh is. Meanwhile, Ike Taylor, William Gay, and Deshea Townsend have the experience and ability to hang with any of the Vikings' receivers. The x-factor is Polamalu, who's hair and freakish playmaking will be a nightmare for Old Man Favre. I expect ol' Troy to get at least one pick in this game, maybe even for a touchdown. And just for completeness, find me a better group of linebackers than those on the Steelers. Try it!
Now that I've trumped up the Steelers D, it's time to give Minnesota's defense the respect they've earned. Between the Williams Wall, Jared Allen, a very underrated and athletic linebacker group, and a decent secondary, the Vikings have been awesome on defense for years, and 2009 is no different. Kiss Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall goodbye, as Pat and Kevin Williams will literally eat them up on inside runs. The only real problem I see is the injury to Antoine Winfield, the Vikings best cornerback. If he can't go (and he's listed as doubtful), Ben Roethlisberger will be attacking Cedric Griffin and Karl Paymah without remorse. Between Santonio Holmes, Hines Ward, Heath Miller, and rookie Mike Wallace, someone will be open. Pittsburgh's passing game has been a revelation the last two years, and I really think the Winfield injury makes the difference in this one.
While it won't be a big, high-scoring shootout, this should be a fun game to watch for those who like good defense and occasional big passing plays. I think home field advantage and an unfortunate Minnesota injury tip this one in favor of the Steelers laying 5 1/2, but Minnesota should keep it close enough to cover.