Vikings, Buccaneers Clash On Thursday Night Football

By: Michael Robinson | Monday, October 22, 2012

The Minnesota Vikings may be the surprise team of the entire NFL. They look to keep the ‘good times rolling’ while hosting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday Night Football.

The Don Best Pro Odds have just announced NFL Week 8 and Minnesota is 6½-point favorites with a total of 41½-42. The total is one of the lowest of the week. The NFL Network will have the 8:20 p.m. (ET) telecast from Mall of America Field.

The Vikings were predicted to finish deep in the cellar of the competitive NFC North, which also includes the Packers, Bears and Lions. However, they’ve come out of the gate surprisingly strong at 5-2 straight up (3-3-1 against the spread).

Coach Leslie Frazier’s team has benefitted from some questionable competition. The latest example was yesterday’s 21-14 home win over Arizona as 7-point favorites. John Skelton was the opposing quarterback with Kevin Kolb injured. The Vikings have only played two teams that are currently over .500.

There is also concern at quarterback with Christian Ponder slowing down after a strong start. The second-year product from Florida State threw for just 58 yards on 17 attempts last game. He has six interceptions the last three weeks after none in the first four games.

Fortunately, running back Adrian Peterson is looking nothing like a guy coming off knee surgery. He has 652 yards on the season (4.8 per carry) and the team is ranked seventh in rushing overall (132.3 YPG).

The defense has also played well at 18.7 PPG allowed (ranked sixth). That’s helped the ‘under’ go 5-1 in the last six games, including 3-0 in the last three at home.

The Buccaneers are just 2-4 SU in coach Greg Schiano’s first season after a 35-28 home loss to New Orleans yesterday. They blew a 21-7 second quarter lead as Drew Brees (377 yards, four TDs) picked apart the league’s 31th-ranked pass defense (323 YPG) that is missing suspended cornerback Aqib Talib.

The ‘over’ is now 3-0 in Tampa Bay’s last three games, scoring 29.3 PPG and allowing 23 PPG.

Quarterback Josh Freeman (91.2 rating, ranked 11th) has piled up some good fantasy numbers the last three weeks (1,047 passing yards, seven TDs versus two picks), but needs to make the big play at the right time to get wins.

Freeman is capable of throwing on any defense when he is on, including this week. A balanced running attack would be key as well. Rookie Doug Martin has gone over the 120-yard mark in total rushing and receiving the last two weeks.

Schiano’s defense ranks third in the league against the run (76 YPG). The 3.1 yards per carry allowed is the best and this game will be very interesting if Peterson is contained and Ponder is forced to throw.

Tampa Bay (4-2 ATS) is 2-0 ATS on the road this year with close losses at tough Dallas (16-10) and the New York Giants (41-34). The Bucs are an incredible 11-0-1 ATS in their last 12 road games overall.

These teams met last year with the Buccaneers winning 24-20 as 1-point road ‘dogs. Freeman (243 yards) got the best of his counterpart Donovan McNabb even with Peterson rushing for 120 yards. They also won and covered the last meeting in Florida in 2008, a 19-13 win over 4½-point favorites.

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