Last week, the Minnesota Vikings were lucky to get the win as they held off the Arizona Cardinals. Christian Ponder struggled mightily against a stiff Cardinal pass defense, but Adrian Peterson strapped the team to his back, and Harrison Smith sealed the victory with a pick six.
This week, the Vikings host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on a short week. The Bucs bring a pass defense that will be much softer than the Cards, giving up an average of 323 yards per game through the air and registering just 1.3 sacks per game. However, they have one of the strongest run defenses in the league, giving up just 76 yards per game on the ground.
The Vikings have utilized a strong running game and short-game passing attack, and until the last couple weeks had not turned the ball over. I believe to win this week they need to try to stretch the field against the suspect Bucs pass defense. Tampa Bay has given up an astounding 28 pass plays of 20 or more yards, and 7 of more than 49 yards. I think a varied attack will expose the Buccaneers’ weak secondary, but Ponder should try to get more players involved.
Jerome Simpson has not made much of an impact thus far, but in order to keep the Tampa defense guessing, the Vikings should mix in all manner of plays: play-action, short routes, long routes, screens, and so on. Percy Harvin has shown his versatility this year, and Minnesota should continue to use him creatively to exploit the Buccaneers.
The Vikings could also use the short week to their advantage. On Thursday Night Football this year, home teams are 5-1, and they are winning by an average of over 8 points.
Ponder had a dreadful game last week, but he needs to have a short memory and get back to making smart decisions, taking what the defense gives him, and not turning the ball over. Tampa is by no means a pushover this year, but they are very beatable, especially through the air. With a weak pass rush and a lousy secondary, we will find out how well Ponder can bounce back this week and pick apart the Buccaneers.