When the NFL set up its International Series schedule for 2013, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings were expected to be two of the league's top teams.
But after three weeks of action, neither team has been able to generate a single win, combining for a record of 0-6.
Which team will win?
Winless records don't mean these two teams will fail to wow the eager crowd at Wembley Stadium, however. Conditions are ripe for a highlight-reel-studded contest that will compel fans to their feet throughout the contest.
Falling into an 0-4 hole to open the season is almost always a death sentence for NFL teams. As noted by Bleacher Report's Russell S. Baxter, only the 1992 San Diego Chargers have gone on to reach the playoffs after starting the season with four straight losses:
#NFL teams to reach playoffs after 0-3 start: '81 Jets (0-3) '82 Buccaneers (0-3) '92 Chargers (0-4) '95 Lions (0-3) '98 Bills (0-3)— Russell S. Baxter (@BaxFootballGuru) September 20, 2013
Needless to say, the Steelers and Vikings will leave nothing on the field. This sense of urgency is far from the only reason fans should expect to see big plays, however.
Adrian Peterson Will Go Off
Adrian Peterson is, undeniably, one of the league's premier players at any position. He's capable of taking every ball he touches to the house for six points, as we saw when he took his first carry this year 78 yards for a touchdown.
The man known as "All Day" has struggled to make plays since opening up the season with a bang, however, averaging less than three yards a carry since his big touchdown, as noted by TDdaily:
Since his season opening 78-yard TD run against the Lions, Adrian Peterson is averaging less than 3 yards per carry. #Vikings— TDdaily (@TDdaily) September 22, 2013
Peterson has been playing without lead blocker Jerome Felton, however, who sat out the first three games while serving a suspension. He's back for Week 4, and you can expect Peterson to benefit from his arrival.
Felton won second-team All-Pro honors and was an NFC Pro Bowler last season after helping pave the way for Peterson's near record-breaking performance of 2,097 yards rushing.
Pittsburgh's defense is traditionally one of the NFL's top against the run, but Matt Forte was able to break off some big gains in Week 3 against this unit for the Chicago Bears.
Peterson's cold streak is about to come to an end, and when he's on his game, the All-Pro running back is one of a few NFL players worth the price of admission all by himself.
Ben Roethlisberger Will Exploit Minnesota's Porous Secondary
It's a shame Ben Roethlisberger doesn't have any protection up front, because he's still one of the best gunslingers in the NFL.
"Big Ben" has already been sacked 10 times this year, and that number would be far greater if not for his incredible ability to evade pressure and extend plays with his legs.
How many touchdowns will Roethlisberger throw against the Vikings?
He was constantly harassed by the Chicago Bears in Week 3 and was playing without the benefit of a rushing attack. Felix Jones and Jonathan Dwyer combined to rush for just 73 yards on 19 carries.
Despite these adverse circumstances, Roethlisberger passed for 406 yards in the game, connecting with wide receiver Antonio Brown nine times for 196 yards and two touchdowns.
Minnesota's defense has been torched by opposing quarterbacks this year, allowing 947 passing yards and nine touchdowns through three games.
Cleveland Browns backup quarterback Brian Hoyer went off for 321 yards with three touchdowns last weekend, and Roethlisberger will do the same in Week 4.
Bad records don't automatically disqualify teams from being able to wow a crowd.
The Steelers and Vikings both feature star players on both sides of the ball, and this game will present them with ample opportunities to give fans something to cheer about.
Would this upcoming game be more exciting if the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos were taking the field?
That doesn't mean Pittsburgh and Minnesota won't bring their A-games to Wembley Stadium on Sunday, however.
The Steelers have been perennial playoff contenders, and no team in the league has more Lombardi Trophies stashed away in their archives. Mike Tomlin is highly competitive, as are his veteran leaders, and you can be sure they'll be playing as if the Super Bowl was on the line—which it is.
Minnesota was a playoff team last year, making it in with a record of 10-6.
The Vikings have suffered through some dismal quarterback play with Christian Ponder this year, but he's out with a fractured rib this weekend, as noted by Chip Scoggins of the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
Christian Ponder has a fractured rib and is out. Frazier said Ponder had CT scan on Monday. Felt too risky to play him— chipscoggins (@chipscoggins) September 27, 2013
Veteran backup Matt Cassel will start in his place. He struggled during his time with the Kansas City Chiefs, but he was terrific in 2008 for the New England Patriots when Tom Brady was out with an injury, passing for 3,693 yards with 21 touchdowns.
His big arm could spark a stagnant Vikings passing game, which will only make things easier for Peterson on the ground.
Big plays will be abundant and the NFL-starved Brits will have plenty to cheer about when the Steelers and Vikings take the field on Sunday.
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