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K.C., Minnesota face scrutiny; Megatron heads to Big D

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Associated Press
Todd Haley and Leslie Frazier are under intense scrutiny in K.C. and Minneapolis.

Every Thursday, Steve Wyche will examine a handful of the week's premier matchups on the field.

This could be the week that one of the three 3-0 teams falls. Unbeaten Detroit and Buffalo visit Dallas and Cincinnati, respectively, and the Packers play host to the Broncos. None of those are easy games, although Green Bay should have a solid command of things at home.

To me the real Week 4 intrigue, however, comes at the other end of the spectrum.

Minnesota at Kansas City

Winless Minnesota travels to winless Kansas City. I know a tie is possible but one of these teams is destined to notch its first win, while the other is going to fall into a deeper pile of steaming hot ... trouble. As disappointed as each team is that it's yet to win, a loss pretty much will force the unlucky team to focus on 2012.

The Chiefs showed some sign of life in a close loss at San Diego but other than that, they have been awful. They're averaging a league-worst nine points per game and have little in the way of playmakers. That's a major drawback in this game because the Vikings have been gashed against the pass, despite the front four putting serious pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

There's already speculation that Chiefs coach Todd Haley could be on the hot seat. A poor showing at home against the Vikings could make an already combustible situation in K.C. radioactive.

The Vikings' record, meanwhile, should be 1 ½-1 ½. They can win first halves like it's nobody's business. As soon as that whistle blows to begin the second half, however, they're like the city of New Orleans: They don't know how or when to close.

Minnesota's new coaching staff has also come under some heat -- especially offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. Musgrave, unlike most play-callers, is gaining leads with the run and trying to preserve them by throwing the ball in the second half.

The scrutiny of that strategy is becoming seriously intense, look for Musgrave's play-calling to change this week.

Regardless of strategies, these teams have enough flaws to find ways to lose on their own. That, more than a big game from a player, could dictate Sunday's outcome, and a loss could have a far more damaging effect for the Vikings. They're trying to get a new stadium but community and governmental support could be a roadblock. If they fall to 0-4 and the wheels appear to fall off, fan apathy could become an albatross for the franchise at a time when it can get out of its deal at Mall of America Stadium.

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If that perfect storm rears its head, Minneapolis could lose its second professional franchise to Los Angeles -- -- the NBA's Lakers were the first team to flee -- which is clearing obstacles to build a new stadium for a team willing to relocate.

Megatron vs. Dallas DBs

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett called Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson "arguably the best player in the NFL." We'll see what he really thinks after Johnson faces the Cowboys Sunday in the Jones Mahal.

Johnson already has six touchdown catches and is playing at an otherworldly level. We always wondered how good he could be if Matthew Stafford was the other end of his battery and now we've gotten a glimpse. Dallas held Johnson to six catches for less than 50 yards and a touchdown when they met last season. Shaun Hill was Detroit's quarterback then.

The Cowboys double-covered Johnson on nearly every play and likely will do the same this go-around. That's hardly a strategy Johnson hasn't seen. Cornerback Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins -- who is playing much more like the 2009 Pro Bowl selection -- not only have to apply primary coverage but they have to make plays on the ball. Johnson has shown that he will go up, over and through defenders so Dallas' DBs have to play more athletically than they have at any point this season.

If not, they could be echoing Garrett's sentiments.

Pittsburgh at Houston

This game isn't a measuring stick for the Texans. It's a measuring stick for the Steelers.

Pittsburgh has not looked imposing on either side of the ball and its offensive line is beat up. Conversely, Houston's front seven in its new 3-4 alignment, is really good and is getting better. The Steelers haven't run the ball well and it's going to be tougher sledding at the Texans.

Rookie defensive end J.J. Watt is a very impressive player who can reset the line of scrimmage on rushing downs and generate enough penetration to free up other pass rushers when needed.

Houston is still susceptible to the long ball and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and his slew of big-play receivers, led by Mike Wallace, should be able to hit some explosive plays through the air -- that is if Big Ben has time to throw.

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89.

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