Tampa Bay 36, Minnesota 17
Most so-called “experts” and fans alike, picked the Vikings to win at home on a short week. I went against the Las Vegas odds of Minnesota winning by 6.5 points, by betting on the Buccaneers to pull off the upset. Of course, not in the dominating fashion that resulted in a 36-17 W for the Buccaneers.
See, these teams clashed after playing very different styles the previous Sunday. Minnesota protected home-field convincingly, against Arizona in a 21-14 victory. Adrian Peterson went to work and the defense was stout as usual. However, that was a physical ballgame featuring two of the league’s better defenses.
On the other hand, Tampa Bay hosted the Saints in a flamboyant shootout, losing as time expired 35-28. Despite a career performance by Vincent Jackson who erupted for over 200 receiving yards, and Doug Martin moving the chains on the ground, the phenomenal Drew Brees out-dueled Josh Freeman for a division win. The two QBs nearly combined for 800 yards passing.
Tampa Bay is the 6th best run defense in football. Combine that with the roller coaster play of a young quarterback like Christian Ponder, the writing was on the wall for an upset. Since coming off their bye week, the Buccaneers are doing what they’re supposed to: center the offense around Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson. Martin is the rookie workhorse in the backfield, and he played the best game of his short career and that includes the passing game. The Vikings defense focused on taking away Jackson, so Josh Freeman found rhythm with Mike Williams and Dallas Clark to get the job done. Needless to say, Freeman is the key to their success.
Minnesota is playing tough defense while leaning on their stars to carry the offense: Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin. We’ve all come to the conclusion that A.P. isn’t human with a remarkable knee recovery and high-level production, while Harvin looks like the most explosive player in the NFL this season. What seems to have taken a step back, is the Ponder to Kyle Rudolph connection. A tight end is a quarterback’s best friend and safety valve, now the Vikings have to make the adjustment to what defenses are doing to take that option away. What goes unnoticed, is that tight ends are used as check downs, to get first downs, and in the redzone. They have to keep Rudolph involved.
It was a short week for both teams, but an impressive road win for the Buccaneers in prime time. Minnesota drops to 5-3 and will look to bounce back against the “12th man” in Seattle come week 9. Tampa Bay moves to 3-4 and will play in the “black hole” next week against the Raiders.