Week eight of the 2012 NFL season is set to kickoff when the 2-4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers travel to the stadium formerly known as the Metrodome (Mall of America Field now) to take on the surprising 5-2 Minnesota Vikings on Thursday Night Football. Entering this game, based on records, it seems as if it won’t be entertaining but based on the fact that both of teams do different things well it should be interesting to see which teams imposes their will and ultimately will earn the victory.
The Vikings come into the game following a 21-14 home win over the Arizona Cardinals while the Bucs lost last week 35-28 to the New Orleans Saints due to a couple of controversial plays and calls by both their head coach Greg Schiano and the referees.
Minnesota will need to get a much better performance out of their second-year signal caller Christian Ponder this week than they did versus the Cards last week. Ponder completed eight of his 17 attempts for 58 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions producing a dismal total QBR of 18.4. The Bucs have the 31st ranked defense against the pass allowing 323 yards per game and the third ranked defense against the run allowing just 76 yards per game which means that Ponder must perform much better in order to take some of the offensive load off of Adrian Peterson and the running attack. Peterson is having a tremendous season so far rushing for 652 yards (3rd in NFL) and three touchdowns on 136 carries, but this week the Bucs defense may slow him down just a bit which is why Ponder’s play could be a huge factor. Percy Harvin will be Ponder’s main target as he has been all season hauling in 53 receptions for 577 yards and two touchdowns.
For Tampa Bay, Josh Freeman is going to have to attempt to keep his fine play of late up versus a defense that is very solid against both the pass and run. Over the past two games Freeman has completed 39 of his 68 attempts for 748 yards, six touchdowns and just one interception, however the Vikes are ranked ninth in offensive yards allowed per game (319.7 yards), 11th in passing yards allowed per game (219.4 yards), 12th in rushing yards allowed per game (100.3 yards) and sixth in points allowed per game (18.7 points). In order for the Bucs to pull off what seems like a difficult road win they will need everyone to step up and produce. Running back Doug Martin (100 carries for 408 yards and 2 TD this season) could be a crucial factor in the game, if he can get some early yards then maybe it will open up some room for Freeman to make some plays in the passing game. Vincent Jackson has had an incredible season so far for the Bucs catching 27 receptions for 586 yards and five touchdowns.
Expect Minnesota’s Chad Greenway (68 tackles and 2 sacks this year) and Jared Allen (6 sacks, tied for 8th in NFL) to make as many plays as possible for their defense which has been lacking any type of big plays being made from their secondary (just 4 interceptions all season in seven games). For the Bucs defense, linemen Gerald McCoy and Michael Bennett have recorded seven of the teams eight sacks on the year which means that someone else must step up and make a play if Tampa Bay is truly thinking upset in this one.
In the end one of these teams have displayed that they are one of the league’s better ones, the Vikings, while the other has showed that even though they are competitive they have yet to learn how to win those close games. All of that being said I’ll take Minnesota 24 – 16.