It's time for the Vikings and Steelers to lay it all on the line. Both teams have their backs against the wall. It's do or die.
Pick your favorite sports cliche and you'll find it in this week's pitch between two winless teams in London.
WHAT’S AT STAKE: Jobs? We're not sure about Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh, but Leslie Frazier and Christian Ponder are in are very hot spotlight here in Minnesota. On Wednesday, the Wilf's expressed their trust in Frazier for the long haul, but Ponder's job -- if he starts -- is definitely on the line. Whoever loses this game can kiss their already ultra-slim playoff chances goodbye.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: The all-time series between these two is tied at eight wins apiece. Minnesota hasn't beaten the Steelers since 1995, although they've met just three times since then. The most recent was a 27-17 Vikings loss in Pittsburgh. It was Minnesota's first loss with Brett Favre at quarterback in 2009.
PLAYER IN THE SPOTLIGHT: We're pretty bored with Christian Ponder, so we're going with Pro Bowl fullback Jerome Felton, who finally returns from a three-game suspension. Felton joined play-by-play guy Paul Allen in London on Wednesday for a 10-minute interview.
Felton helped pave the way for Adrian Peterson's 2,000 yard season in 2012, and the MVP is glad his fullback is back.
"I can say there's some type of confidence that I feel just knowing what type of guy he is, knowing his approach and mentality," Peterson told the Pioneer Press.
WHAT THE OTHER GUYS ARE SAYING: The Steelers are very excited to get rookie running back LeVeon Bell back from a foot injury. Their rushing game ranks near the bottom of the NFL, so any boost is obviously an upgrade to what their running back by committee approach got them in the first three weeks.
“I’m just excited to see what he can do because nobody knows,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “Nobody’s seen him in game action.”
BEST QUOTE OF THE WEEK SO FAR: With Ponder's status for Sunday somewhat in question because of a rib injury, fans could get a first look at backup quarterback Matt Cassel. If Cassel does get the start, it won't be a challenge for his receivers to adjust to his style.
“We’ve gotten a ton of work with Matt,” wide receiver Greg Jennings told the Star Tribune. “Even before this week, he’s always been in there periodically throwing the ball. We see a lot of his balls coming our way, so it won’t be something that’s unusual for us to see Matt back there taking some snaps.”
THE LATEST LINE, OUR PREDICTION: The Steelers are a 2 1/2 point favorite according to the latest odds at Caesar's Palace. Our prediction is a tough call. The Steelers are an aging group that hasn't been able to move the ball on offense. That said, the Vikings just let something called Brian Hoyer torch them for 31 points... and the Browns had just one touchdown this season going into last week's game. For now, we'll stick with the Purple to figure one thing or another out and win the game, 24-21.