With a short week for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they have tough game with a former division rival in the Minnesota Vikings. This is the lone prime time game for the Buccaneers, who will go in off just three days of rest.
The Buccaneers are coming off yet another heart breaking loss, as they held the lead early in the game, but some last second heroics left them one foot out of bounds, and unable to tie the New Orleans Saints.
Even in a loss, the Buccaneers still are building upon their team, and Josh Freeman is looking better than ever. It appears as though each week he is making more and more plays, but he has a tough test this week against the Vikings.
Freeman has struggled against zone coverage teams throughout his career, and the Vikings secondary is playing some of the best zone in the league right now. The Bucs wide receivers need to find their soft spots in the zones, and sit down to give Freeman a place to go with the ball.
Vincent Jackson has been on fire the last three games but will encounter a tough challenge this week, as the second year corner Chris Cook has done a great job containing some of the elite receivers in the game this year. Mike Williams will have to step it back up if the Bucs want a chance to win this game.
The Vikings have been winning football games the old fashion way: running the football, playing good defense and not turning the ball over. This is another test of the Buccaneers run defense, as they face the best back in the league in Adrian Peterson.
I think the Bucs defense will once again rise to the challenge of slowing down a top back in the NFL, but they won’t be able to slow down their offense entirely. No one on the defense has the capability of slowing down Percy Harvin, and I expect him to have a monster game against the Buccaneers corners.
Even if they can somehow slow Harvin down, Kyle Rudolph has been a great target for second year quarterback Christian Ponder, and should be an interesting match-up for Mark Barron. Barron hasn’t truly been tested in man coverage since early in the year, so it could be a fun contest to watch.
The pass rush for the Buccaneers has to find itself, and a rhythm this week. Since losing Adrian Clayborn the entire defensive line has failed to generate any pressure. Against the Kansas City Chiefs that worked out fine, but against the Saints, Drew Brees carved up the defense.
Ponder has yet to make substantial mistakes this year, but bringing some heat could force some of those bad tendencies we saw out of him last year, and create turnovers for the Bucs defense. Gerald McCoy has a favorable match-up this week inside, and needs to be the player he was for the first three weeks of the season.
I have this game as a tight one with the Vikings winning on the short week at home. The Buccaneers are still trying to figure out an offensive identity despite Freeman’s good performances. They need to be able to make the plays they want, when they need to, and I don’t think this is the week they figure that out.
I have the Vikings winning 24-17. Again, this will be another game where the Buccaneers hang in tight, but just can’t make the plays to win it.