Last time we had what appeared to be such a one sided affair on Thursday night, it ended up in a huge upset. The Minnesota Vikings have an advantage at almost every position over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but on short weeks for both teams anything can happen.
The key for the Vikings? Pretty simple. Getting Adrian Peterson the amount of touches he has seen all season, as the All-Pro running back seems better, faster and stronger with every passing week. Against the Cardinals on week 7, one of the better run defenses in the NFL, Peterson ran for 153 yards on 23 carries, scoring a touchdown. He has a total of 652 yards and 3 touchdowns and another 135 yards recieving. He averages 22.6 touches per game, and that’s were the Vikings are aiming at once again.
At quarterback, the Bucs may have their only advantage with Josh Freeman, who has more potential for a big game than Christian Ponder does. Problem is for Freeman is he’s facing a much better defense than what the Saints showed him last week, and he struggles when he’s facing only four pass rushers while 7 drop into coverage. He’s got good targets in Vincent Jackson (586 yards, 5 touchdowns) and Mike Williams (368 yards, 3 touchdowns), but the Vikings have good players in coverage and obviously when it comes to their defensive line, ranked third in the NFL with 22 sacks so far this season.
The Bucs’ run defense, which needs to be more prepared than usual for this one, isn’t one of the best in the NFL, despite the promising 76 yards it allows per game. That’s mostly because teams prefer to pass against them. They have allowed a league-best 1.78 yards per rush before initial contact this season on rushes between the tackles. On the season, 90.4 percent of Adrian Peterson’s rushes have been between the tackles, averaging 2.42 yards per rush before contact. Not a recipe for success on the road.
One key for Tampa might be the predictability of Christian Ponder and in general the Vikings’ offense. Ponder is hard to get to, but he hangs on to the ball too long and hardly throws deep, although some injuries in Tampa’s secondary might change that. Still, most of what he gets is by dropping short passes to Percy Harvin, with 53 receptions for 577 yards so far this season, scoring 5 touchdowns. Ponder has attempted only seven throws more than 20 yards downfield this season, with his only completion coming in Week 1. Despite his awful game against the Cardinals, he might try to be a bit more risque if the Vikings will be able to afford it.
Prediction – Not much going for Tampa going into this one. Freeman is the better quarterback, but he’s not the kind of quarterback to cause the Vikings the same kind of trouble RG3 did, plus he won’t have much of a defense to support him. The Vikings are a very straightforward and predictable team, but very good at what they do.