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NFL Minnesota VikingsTampa Bay Buccaneers

Vikings vs. Buccaneers NFL Week 8 Preview

Rob Foldy-Bruce Kluckhohn-US PRESSWIRE

As week 8 of the NFL season approaches, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Minnesota Vikings are getting set to battle on Thursday Night Football.

Line – Vikings (-6.5)

With many angles and players to follow in this game, let’s take a look at the major storylines:

How Will Christian Ponder Play?

Ponder is not coming off his greatest performance. The second year quarterback only completed 8 of 17 passes last week for a total of 58 yards, including 2 interceptions. He did throw one touchdown pass, but it was just a quick toss to Percy Harvin for a goal line score, a throw any quarterback could have made.

It’s becoming clear that Minnesota can beat most teams with their solid running game and defense, but Ponder’s play will be what determines their ultimate fate this season.

The time is now for Ponder to begin evolving his role as the Vikings’ quarterback. There’s no question he took a step back last week, and a team competing for a playoff spot cannot afford for that to happen.

I’m interested to see how Ponder plays in the national spotlight, as this will be without question the largest profile game he’s competed in.

He’ll have a good shot to be successful against the Buccaneers, who are second worst in the league giving up 323.0 yards/game through the air this season.

Can the Buccaneers Keep their Season Alive?

While I won’t go as far to call this a must-win for the Bucs, I will call it a game with major postseason implications for them. Meaning a loss here, would make a playoff spot nearly unattainable.

The Buccaneers sit a 2-4 coming off of a late heartbreaking loss against the New Orleans Saints in week 7. If a couple of calls go the other way, and without their second half collapse in week 2, the Bucs could easily be 4-2. So they’re not as bad as a 2-4 record might indicate.

Tampa Bay is at a disadvantage traveling across the county on a short week, so it’s crucial they get off to a good start in this one. If the Vikings come out strong like they have most of the season, it will be a tough uphill battle to knock off Adrian Peterson and the Vikings at home.

Minnesota has controlled the clock and momentum in nearly all their games this season, so if Tampa Bay can find a way to stop AP, they have chance. In contrast to their pass defense, they’re third best in the league, only allowing 76.0 yards/game on the ground.

Outlook:

The Vikings are favored by six and half points for good reason. They’re a team with elite players at running back, wide receiver, and on defense; not to mention they’re playing in front of one of the best home crowds in the league.

The objective should be real simple for Tampa Bay, make Christian Ponder beat you. If they can limit Peterson and Harvin, they will have a chance in this one.

However if the Vikings can continue to run the ball at will, and play their solid defense, the Buccaneers will likely find themselves in a serious 2-5 hole come week 9.

Follow Andrew Fisher on Twitter @the_realfish