Sunday Morning Under the Helmet: What To Watch for in NFL Week Seven

Alex JohnsonCorrespondent IOctober 25, 2009

Last week we saw the Saints pummel the Giants, the Raiders upset the Eagles, and the Titans destroyed by the Patriots in a blizzard.

What shockers, blowouts, and upsets will we see in week seven?

Stay tuned to find out!


Matchup of the Week: Minnesota Vikings (6-0) at Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2)

The Pittsburgh Steelers got off to a slow start but have recently turned it on to collect three straight victories including last week's 27-14 win over Cleveland. They now sit at 4-2.

Minnesota has gotten off to a hot start. In fact, it's their best start since 2000, when they reached the NFC title game.

In week six, the Vikings won a 33-31 thriller over Baltimore at home.

This week, the Vikes head to the Steel City to take on the defending champions.

To win, the Vikings offense will need to continue to get consistency from their ground game and Brett Favre's arm.

So far this season, Favre has thrown for 1,347 yards, 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions with a 109.5 quarterback rating. Last week he threw for 278 yards and three touchdowns.

Even though Favre gets the attention, Adrian Peterson and the ground attack have to continue to be the focal point of the Vikings' offense.

Peterson gashed Baltimore's defense for 143 yards in week six and always has big play potential.

The Steelers will have to shut down Peterson if they want to hand Minnesota its first loss of 2009.

For Pittsburgh's offense, Ben Roethlisberger and Hines Ward will be the keys.

Roethlisberger leads the league with 1,887 yards through the air and is on pace to reach 5,000 yards passing. Ward leads the NFL in receptions with 41 and receiving yards with 599.

That tandem could continue their success today against Minesota's 24th ranked pass defense and the possibility that No. 1 cornerback Antoine Winfield could be sidelined due to injury.

In the second half last week with Winfield out the Vikings gave up big plays through the air and allowed 21 points in the final 10 minutes.


Keys to the game

-Peterson vs. Steelers D

-Roethlisberger to Ward

-Pittsburgh must protect the football

Prediction: Steelers win 24-20


Small Names, Big Games

Here we will take a look at three non-superstars who will post big numbers in Week Seven.


Miles Austin (WR, Dallas)

After his franchise best 250 yard receiving performance in week five in an overtime victory in Kansas City, Miles Austin has been promoted to No. 2 on the Cowboys' wide receiver depth chart above Patrick Crayton.

Austin goes against Atlanta's 21st ranked pass defense today. He won't reproduce his record setting performance, but he could certainly have another impressive game.

Expect Tony Romo to look in Austin's direction early and often this afternoon.


Sam Aiken (WR, New England)

Veteran wideout Joey Galloway was cut from the Patriots' roster earlier this week and rookie Julian Edelman didn't make the London trip because of a broken arm. Therefore, Sam Aiken will be called on to step up and take a lot more offensive snaps than he's used to.

Last week, Aiken caught four balls for 61 yards in the Pats' 59-0 destruction of Tennessee.

Aiken could have even more success this week against Tampa Bay's weak defense and of course with Tom Brady as his quarterback.


Austin Collie (WR, Indianapolis)

Colts' rookie receiver Austin Collie has played very well this season in place of injured Anthony Gonzalez.

Collie has 20 receptions for 228 yards and three touchdowns so far this season including 14 catches for 162 yards in his last two games combined.

Peyton Manning will likely continue to throw to Collie often, especially today against St. Louis' 25th ranked pass defense.


Others To Watch:  Jeremy Maclin (WR, Philadelphia), BenJarvus Green-Ellis (RB, New England), Visanthe Shiancoe (TE, Minnesota)


Upset Alert!: Miami (2-3) over New Orleans (5-0)???

The New Orleans Saints are 5-0, they're No. 1 in points per game, and first in yards per game. They haven't trailed in a game all year and haven't allowed an opponent closer than 14 points. Their quarterback Drew Brees has destroyed every defense he's gone against this season.

So pretty much the Saints have flat-out dominated thus far in 2009. Oh, and don't forget they destroyed the New York Giants last week.

So how can anyone predict that the below .500 Dolphins are going to beat this juggernaut?

The answer: the wildcat.

The wildcat offense has proven successful so far this season for Miami

In 48 plays from the formation, the Dolphins are averaging 6.6 yards per play opposed to 4.7 yards per play out of their base offense.

In week five on Monday night, Miami gained 110 yards out of the wildcat formation.

Against Indianapolis in week two, they used the wildcat quite often and gained 239 total yards on the ground while keeping Peyton Manning off the field for most of the game.

That's exactly what they've got to do to win. They have to control time of possession and keep Brees and his offense off the field as much as possible.

Besides dominating on the ground, another way to keep the Saints off the field is to convert on third downs. Miami ranks first in third-down conversion percentage. Through five games, they've converted 56 percent of their third-down tries. That could be huge against New Orleans.

Defensively, believe it or not, the key will be stopping the Saints' ground game.

Miami's third ranked rush defense will have to shut down Pierre Thomas, Mike Bell, Reggie Bush, and their No. 4 rushing attack.

Obviously, stopping Brees and company is very important also. Brees has thrown for 1,400 yards and 13 touchdowns through five games. They won't be able to shut down the pass, but if they have to slow it down.

If the Fins can do all that this afternoon, they will upset the Saints


Keys for MIA

-Wildcat, wildcat, wildcat

-Keep Brees off the field

-Stop the run

Prediction: Dolphins win 30-24


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