Steelers, Vikings among road teams primed for Week 8 wins

  • 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 8. These four are in a unique position to get a difficult road win based on trends, past history and surrounding circumstances entering this weekend's action.

Game: Pittsburgh at New Orleans (8:20 p.m. ET)

Venue: Superdome

Last time at site: Saints running back Deuce McAllister rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns as New Orleans held off Pittsburgh, 32-29, in Week 5 of the 2002 season.

Reason for road optimism: The Steelers are 3-0 this season on the road and have been playing very confidently in hostile environments all year. Entering this season, coach Mike Tomlin sported just a 12-12 road mark, but he seems to have figured out some way to get his team to play better away from the comforts of Heinz Field. Ben Roethlisberger has performed spectacularly since coming back from suspension and has only been sacked three times. Don't count on a Saints defense that ranks 19th in sacks to rattle him enough to make a difference.

Last year was a magical ride for the Saints as they started 13-0 and won the first Super Bowl championship in franchise history. This season has not been nearly as magical. They are struggling in every phase, and even All-Pro quarterback Drew Brees is off his game. Perhaps most alarming for New Orleans is how poorly it has played at home. They are just 2-2 in front of the home crowd, and one of those two wins was a nail-biter against the 1-5 Panthers, who started rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen.

Game: Minnesota at New England (4:15 p.m. ET)

Venue: Gillette Stadium

Last time at site: Tom Brady passed for 239 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Patriots past the Vikings, 24-17, in Week 12 of the 2002 season at the old Foxborough Stadium.

Reason for road optimism: The Vikings have been a disappointment, but this could be the game in which they emerge. Everyone is counting out Brett Favre with his broken ankle, and there are whispers the Patriots might have made the right move by trading Randy Moss to the Vikings. Given Favre's past dominance against New England (a career 94.9 passer rating) and Moss' motivation to play his best against his former team, they might be able to pull off the upset. And a desperate team is always dangerous.

Every good thing must come to an end, and while Tom Brady's 23-game home winning streak would appear to give the Patriots an edge, it can't last forever. The Vikings have yet to play at Gillette Stadium, so they won't be scarred by bad memories, and Favre will be confident after he engineered a dramatic overtime win in his last outing at New England with the Jets. The Patriots have won with smoke and mirrors this year (they rank 19th offensively and 29th defensively), but this could be a game in which their lack of talent is exposed.

Game: Miami at Cincinnati (1 p.m. ET)

Venue: Paul Brown Stadium

Last time at site: Brian Simmons returned an interception 50 yards for a touchdown to spark the Bengals past the Dolphins, 16-13, in Week 2 of the 2004 season.

Reason for road optimism: The Dolphins are unbeaten on the road this year at 3-0, and they have played their best in enemy territory. Most interesting is that the breaks have seemingly gone exclusively the Dolphins' way on the road, while they have been dealt a slew of unfortunate bounces at home. The Bengals have not really been fortunate at home or away, so luck, always an important factor on the road, could be on Miami's side.

The Bengals brought in Terrell Owens, Jordan Shipley and Jermaine Gresham in the offseason to address last season's problems in the passing game. Those guys have all had their moments, and the passing game has improved significantly, but the rest of the team has fallen apart. The defense and running game (2009 staples) have been lackluster, and the Dolphins are at their best by controlling those areas of the game.

Game: Washington at Detroit (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Venue: Ford Field

Last time at site: The Lions snapped a 19-game losing skid with a 19-14 victory over the Redskins in Week 3 of last season.

Reason for road optimism: Last year's loss aside, the Redskins have dominated this series. They own a lopsided 30-11 advantage and have not lost two consecutive games to the Lions since 1935. History is clearly on Washington's side. That aside, this current edition of the Redskins also has some factors in its favor. Washington is 2-0 against NFC North opponents this year and will be fired up to avenge last season's embarrassing loss at Detroit.

The Lions get back Matthew Stafford at quarterback this Sunday, but it might be tough for the second-year signal-caller to shake off the rust after missing several weeks. The best way to beat Washington is to stop the run and force Donovan McNabb to target his secondary receivers. Unfortunately for Detroit, it ranks just 27th in run defense and doesn't have a shut-down corner or linebacker to neutralize Santana Moss or Chris Cooley.



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