Vikings one of four road teams ready to accomplish tough task

  • By Jason Feller
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It takes a lot to win on the road in the NFL, but there are four teams that possess the ingredients necessary to pull off the difficult feat in Week 7. These four are in a unique position to get a road win based on trends, past history and surrounding circumstances entering this weekend's action.

The Packers, Vikings, Bears and Saints all appear to be in position to claim road victories. The Packers travel to Cleveland to square off against the Browns, the Vikings are taking on the defending-champion Steelers, the Bears face the Bengals and the Saints will do battle vs. the host Dolphins.

Game: Green Bay at Cleveland (1 p.m. ET)

Venue: Cleveland Browns Stadium

Last time at site: Edgar Bennett rushed for 71 yards and the Packers were able to overcome 244 passing yards from Vinny Testaverde in a 31-20 victory on Nov. 19, 1995.

Reason for road optimism: Green Bay has not played especially well on the road against AFC opponents in recent years (they are just 4-6 in their last 10 such matchups), but on the bright side, they have not traveled to Cleveland since the Browns moved into their new stadium in 1999. Their previous history against the Browns is actually quite impressive as they have won 10 of the 17 all-time meetings -- most of which came when Cleveland was a league power.

If it wasn't bad enough for the Browns that they've lost nine of their last 10 home games dating back to last season, making matters worse is that the team is dealing with an outbreak of the flu. Twelve players sat out Wednesday's practice due to influenza and perhaps the club's best player -- Joshua Cribbs -- missed practice with a knee injury. Those are ominous signs for a team that is already struggling at 1-5.

Game: Minnesota at Pittsburgh (1 p.m. ET)

Venue: Heinz Field

Last time at site: Steelers safety Brent Alexander picked off two passes and Jerome Bettis rushed for 81 yards and a touchdown to lift the Steelers over the Vikings, 21-16, in Week 12 of the 2001 season.

Reason for road optimism: The Vikings do not have an extensive recent history in traveling to Pittsburgh. In fact, the two teams have met just twice since 1995. That should spare Minnesota the psychological burden teams like the Ravens and Bengals (consistent losers in Pittsburgh) have when they visit Heinz Field. The Vikings have also shown the rare trait of seemingly enjoying being in enemy territory. They are 3-0 on the road this year and have outscored their opponents by 56 points in those matchups.

The Steelers have been one of the league's best home teams since Mike Tomlin took over in 2007; they are 16-3 in front of the home crowd over that span. Despite those apparent advantages, though, there is a pair of potential weaknesses that may allow the 6-0 Vikings to keep their perfect record intact. First of all, the Steelers have lost both of their games this year against teams with winning records (Chicago and Cincinnati). Secondly, Pittsburgh has already surrendered 16 sacks this season; the Vikings excel in pressuring the quarterback as they have a league-leading 21 sacks this season.

Game: Chicago at Cincinnati (4:15 p.m. ET)

Venue: Paul Brown Stadium

Last time at site: Anthony Thomas led the way offensively with 188 rushing yards and Brian Urlacher carried the defense with five tackles and a sack as the Bears blanked the Bengals, 24-0, in Week 6 of the 2001 season.

Reason for road optimism: So far this season, the Bears have struggled somewhat on the road. They have lost two of three away from Soldier Field and Jay Cutler has thrown all seven of his interceptions on the road. Despite those negative factors, Chicago remains a threat Sunday due to its impressive ability to bounce back after defeats; the Bears are 5-1 in their last six games following a loss.

While Cincinnati has proven to be one of the season's early surprises, it has not played as well at home as it has on the road. The Bengals are just 1-2 at Paul Brown Stadium this year and lost by 11 points at home to the Texans last week. The offense has struggled in particular in front of the home crowd, averaging only 292 yards and just under 16 points per game.

Game: New Orleans at Miami (4:15 p.m. ET)

Venue: Land Shark Stadium

Last time at site: Dan Marino passed for 255 yards to lead the Dolphins past the visiting Saints, 30-10, on Nov. 29, 1998.

Reason for road optimism: New Orleans is making a habit of eliminating past flaws this season, so now is the perfect time for it to end its history of futility in Miami. The Saints are 0-3 all-time on the road against the Dolphins and have never scored more than 16 points in any of those games. This Saints team, however, is leading the league in scoring, averaging 38.4 points per game, and it has already won in difficult venues at Buffalo and Philadelphia.

While Miami is typically a difficult place to play due to its oppressive heat, humidity and sometimes rainy conditions, such factors are less likely to have an impact against New Orleans. Though the Saints play in a dome, the team often practices in similar hot, humid and rainy weather in New Orleans. Additionally, the Dolphins have not performed especially well at home over the last two-plus seasons, posting just an 8-11 mark at Land Shark Stadium since 2007.



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