Week 8 commences Thursday evening with a clash between two surprising teams. Greg Schiano’s toughened-up Tampa Bay squad will travel to Minnesota to take on the 5-2 Minnesota Vikings. Nobody expected this kind of performance from the Vikings in 2012, especially in a very difficult NFC North division. If the Vikes are to go on and make the post-season, games like these are ones they must win before taking on tougher foes like the Bears and Packers.
Tampa Bay enters this contest an improve version of last year’s squad, but still a heavily flawed one. Their last contest against the Saints on Sunday was a very winnable game, but ultimately one which they let slip away. The Bucs had multiple tries to tack on some extra points from inside the New Orleans’ 5-yard line, but couldn’t punch it in. If they are to get a road victory Thursday evening, they’ll have to be more clinical in the red zone. The Bucs enter this contest relatively healthy, with only cornerback Brandon McDonald being in danger of missing out due to a calf injury.
Meanwhile for the Vikings it’s all going smoothly through Week 7. They’ll look to continue this miracle run in front of what should be a rowdy crowd Thursday evening. Minnesota, and quarterback Christian Ponder, certainly weren’t at their best in Week 7 against Arizona, but they found a way to get the job done. This is a team buoyed by a sturdy defense that keeps them in every game, and while the Vikes have yet to truly get tested by a premier opponent, it’s clear they’re better than advertised. Like the Bucs, the Vikings too enter this match-up mostly healthy. Only secondary tight-end John Carlson is slated to miss out, as a result of concussion-like symptoms.
Buccaneers vs. Vikings Spread & Betting Odds:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +6.5 (-110)
@ Minnesota Vikings -6.5 (-110)
Over 43 (-110)
Under 43 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
Buccaneers vs. Vikings Pick:
Minnesota has only allowed 23 points more than once this year, and expect that favourable trend to continue this week. Both teams have steady ground attacks with Adrian Peterson and Doug Martin so look for both coaches to take to the run, killing valuable clock time for a potential Under wager.
Coming into the season, Greg Schiano desperately wanted to fix what was perceived to be a very soft Tampa Bay run defense, and he’s achieved that thus far. The Bucs are ferocious against the run, and possess one of the league’s most physical units. After ranking dead last in 2011, Tampa Bay has made vast improvements in this area, and look for that to continue Thursday evening.
The Vikes struggle in the passing game, and will have difficulty getting their running game going. Meanwhile, Minnesota’s defense remains one of the most solid units in the entire NFL. Tampa Bay’s offense is wildly inconsistent despite their weapons, all of which points to this contest being a fairly low-scoring affair.
Two mediocre offenses will square off with two very steady defenses Thursday night. Add in the fact that these Thursday night games have produced a staggering rate of low-scoring encounters, and the best money would be spent on the Under 43 points. Five of the six Thursday Night prime-time games have stayed under so far in 2012, and expect that figure to go to six of seven when this one is all said and done. Expect a tightly played match-up, with something like a 20-17 score-line for the Vikings seeming plausible.
PICK = Under 43 (-110)