This week’s edition of Thursday Night Football features a very intriguing matchup between two young quarterbacks with plenty to prove in the National Football Conference.
On one side, there’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers signal-caller, Josh Freeman, who looks to continue his recent success following a slow start to his 2012 campaign.
Across the field will be 24-year-old Christian Ponder of the Minnesota Vikings, who despite coming out of the gate strong, has sort of fallen into a bit of a funk as of late.
For what it’s worth, Thursday Night Football predictions experts in Vegas suggest that the home team will go into this NFL week 8 battle favored by just over a touchdown at -6½.
Thus, that leaves the underdog Bucs with a very attractive +6½ point cushion in this funky matchup. In addition to those point spreads, NFL week 8 odds makers list the OVER/UNDER for tonight at a combined total of 43 points.
So, which team will prevail in this NFC intraconference showdown?
There’s no question that overall, the Vikings are the better team head-to-head. Having that said, there are plenty of holes and matchups that can be exploited if you’re the Buccaneers defense.
With Ponder struggling to keep his turnovers down (6 INTs and 1 lost fumble in 4 weeks) Minnesota has been forced to become a very one-dimensional team offensively.
As good as Adrian Peterson is, let’s face it, the Vikings are way too dependent on the running game and are putting way too much pressure on AP to carry the offensive load. This plays well into the Bucs hands because they do a tremendous job at defending the run and forcing teams to beat them through the air.
Heading into this game, Tampa Bay ranks third in the league at defending the run, yielding a stingy 76 rushing yards per contest. If they can keep Peterson and the rest of the Vikings’ backs somewhere close to that number, they will have a chance to win this game.
Offensively, as mediocre as Tampa Bay is, it features an attack that’s more than capable of lighting up the scoreboard on any given night. Coming into this game, they rank 11th in the league in point, putting up an average of 25 per contest.
Why are points significant against a defense that ranks sixth in the league in points allowed?
It’s very simple, as mentioned above, if the Bucs can contain Peterson and the Vikings running game, they could perhaps have a chance to get out to an early lead — no matter how small the lead is.
Ahead in the scoreboard, would force Ponder into a position to have to throw the football in order to keep his team in the ballgame.
As we saw last week, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier does not want this kid throwing the ball 30 times a game for fear of what we’ve seen take place over the last three weeks (6 INTS and 1 lost fumble).
In short, I like the Buccaneers at +6½. Stylistically, they match up well against a team that, despite being a superior, talent-wise, has plenty of holes and gaps to exploit.
In either case, no matter what happens, you better start preparing yourself for a low scoring TNF affair. The team that wins the turnover battle will prevail in this one.
If the Buccaneers can employ a smart gameplan, they should have an opportunity to steal this one, or at worst, lose by less than a touchdown and a point after.
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