There have been a ton of surprises so far in the NFL but Minnesota’s 5-2 start might be one of the most stunning. They’re a big favorite on Thursday Night Football to move to 6-2 but the Bucs have been competitive this season and will try to ride their third-ranked rush defense to a win.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Minnesota Vikings
NFL Betting Odds: Vikings -6.5
How The Buccaneers Can Win
The Bucs were unfortunate to lose to New Orleans in Week 7 as there were two touchdowns that were controversially overturned, but if there is something to take from that game, it is that Josh Freeman is starting to feel it. After tearing about Kansas City for 328 yards, Freeman followed that up with 420 yards against a porous New Orleans defense and that should help him get his confidence back. Freeman struggled mightily after a great 2010, but now he has a bonafide star at receiver in Vincent Jackson, who has three 100-yard games this season, including a monster 216 yards against the Saints. That offense has to keep rolling against a very good Minnesota defense.
How The Vikings Can Win
The Vikings don’t really have to change much of what they’re doing. They’re winning games with a defense that is good against the pass and the run, and the offense is balanced enough as Adrian Peterson doesn’t look like a guy who had a major knee injury in the second half of last season. That has allowed Christian Ponder to be a quarterback that manages the game well, but he has shown the ability to throw for a lot of yards as well. Expectations were low in Minnesota coming into the season, but the Vikings have placed themselves in position to be a factor in the second half of the season in the NFC North, and they need to close out the first half with a decisive victory on Thursday.
Outlook And Pick
The Vikings are favored by a touchdown, says the sportsbooks, and before the season, a 7-point spread for Minnesota, even at home, would have gotten a raised eyebrow. However, the Bucs have dominated the Vikings since 2001, winning their last five meetings and covering the spread in all five. Two of those meetings came in Minnesota, so the Bucs haven’t been afraid to go into the old Metrodome (now known as the Mall of America Field).
However, the Bucs’ #3 ranking in rushing defense is a little misleading because they’ve been awful against the pass (31st in the NFL). Look for the Vikings to soften the opposing defense with Peterson and then let Ponder loose, although if Peterson is really gouging the Bucs, Minnesota should probably stick with that. Freeman has played well over the last couple of weeks, but you also have to take that with a grain of salt because Kansas City is a bad team all around, and the Saints’ defense is, well, not really a defense. Freeman has been inconsistent in recent years and now he goes up against an actual NFL defense. Take the Vikings at home with the points.
NFL Pick: Vikings -6.5