It’s an old NFC Central matchup this week on Thursday night as the surprising Minnesota Vikings host the disappointing Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Vikings were projected to be one of the worst teams in the league but are 5-2 (they won three games last year) and just a half-game behind the Bears in the NFC North.
The Vikes beat Arizona 21-14 on Sunday despite major struggles from QB Christian Ponder. He threw a second-quarter touchdown pass to Percy Harvin, but he had only one completion for 4 yards in the second half while the Vikings punted five straight times.
The last four were three-and-out possessions. Ponder finished 8 for 17 for 58 yards and two interceptions. He has had two interceptions in the past three weeks, one a pick-6 that crippled the chances of a Vikings comeback in Washington. After four games without an interception, he’s up to six against nine touchdown passes.
But the Vikings got a season-high 153 rushing yards from Adrian Peterson. It was his second 100-yard rushing performance this season. He also became the league’s leader in most games of 100 yards from scrimmage this season with five. His teammate Harvin is among those tied for second with four. The Minnesota defense also had seven sacks vs. the Cardinals.
The Bucs (2-4) let one get away Sunday, losing 35-28 at home vs. New Orleans. Josh Freeman threw for a career-high 420 yards and three touchdowns for the Bucs, who who scored on their first three possessions of the game to build a 21-7 lead.
Dallas Clark’s 3-yard scoring reception trimmed Tampa Bay’s deficit to 35-28 with four minutes left, and Freeman completed two passes to Vincent Jackson to help the Bucs get into position to possibly force overtime but the Bucs couldn’t punch it in.
Jackson had seven receptions for 216 yards, but failed to score on a 95-yard play in which safety Malcolm Jenkins ran him down to make the tackle at the Tampa Bay 1. It was the longest reception without scoring a TD since Ahmad Rashad had a 98-yard reception on Dec. 10, 1972.
Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin, a first-round running back from Boise State (No. 31), has been a dual threat for the Buccaneers and is the only rookie with at least 400 rushing yards (408) and 10+ catches (13) this season. Martin has started all six games for the Buccaneers and has been a consistent contributor, rushing for at least 50 yards in five of the team’s six games.
He has also proven to be a reliable receiving target out of the backfield and has 253 scrimmage yards in his past two contests (161 rushing, 92 receiving).
The Bucs played at Minnesota early last season – when the Vikings were quarterbacked by Donovan McNabb, and won 24-20. Tampa Bay RB LeGarrette Blount rushed for two scores, including game-winning TD run with 31 seconds remaining as the Bucs overcame a 17-0 deficit.
SPORTSBETONLINE ODDS: Vikings -6.5 (41.5)
BUCS: QB Josh Freeman won only career start vs. Min., passing for 243 yards, 1 TD & 91.2 rating. When he has 95+ rating, Bucs are 11-5 (.689). Passed for 3 TDs & 115.2 rating with career-high 420 yards last week. Aims for 3rd in row with 3 TD passes …
RB Doug Martin is 2nd among NFL rookie RBs with 408 rush yards. Had 85 rush yards & TD vs. NO. WR Vincent Jackson had 7 catches for club-record 216 yards (30.9 avg.) & TD last week. Has 4 TDs in past 3 & aims for 4th in row with TD. Since 2008, Jackson avg. 18.4 yards per catch (228 rec., 4,205 yards), best in NFL (min. 100 catches).
WR Tiquan Underwood scored 1st career TD last week (13-yard catch). WR Arrelious Benn had 25-yard TD catch in last meeting … Club’s rushing defense is 3rd in NFL (76 yards per game). DB Ronde Barber is only player in NFL annals with 25+ sacks (28) & 40+ INTs (46). Aims for 3rd in row with INT.
VIKINGS: QB Christian Ponder has 2 TD passes in 4 of past 6. Aims for 5th win in row at home … Since 2007, RB Adrian Peterson leads league with 7,404 rush yards & 67 rush TDs. His 67 rush TDs in 1st 80 career games are 4th most in history (Emmitt Smith, 78; Jim Brown, 76; LaDainian Tomlinson, 73). Rushed for 120 yards & 2 TDs in last meeting …
WR-KR Percy Harvin & HOFer Gale Sayers are only players in NFL history with 20+ scrimmage TDs & 5 KR-TDs in 1st 4 seasons. Harvin, Sayers & Timmy Brown are only players in NFL history with rush, rec. & KR TD in 3 consecutive seasons. Since Ponder’s 1st start (10/23/11), Harvin has 115 receptions, 2nd most in NFL. Has 100+ rec. yards in 2 of past 3 …
DE Jared Allen has 6 sacks in past 5 & aims for 6th in row with sack. Had sack in last meeting. Has 38 sacks in past 32. Since entering NFL in 2004, Allen has NFL-best 111 sacks. DE Brian Robison had career-high 3 sacks last week
SPORTSBET TRENDS: Buccaneers are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games in Week 8. Buccaneers are 1-4 ATS vs. a team with a winning record. Vikings are 4-11 ATS in their last 15 games following a S.U. win.
Vikings are 2-6 ATS in their last 8 games in Week 8. Vikings are 2-9-1 ATS in their last 12 games after accumulating more than 150 yards rushing in their previous game. Buccaneers are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 meetings. Home team is 9-2-1 ATS in their last 12 meetings.