NFL Point Spread: Vikings -3
Tampa Bay surprised the NFL by going 10-6 last year, but they fell just short of a playoff berth. The Bucs were beaten at home by the Lions in week one and they really can’t afford another loss this week. Minnesota kept it close against San Diego last week, but their miserable passing game kept them from winning. Can the Vikings win this one at home or will the Bucs be road warriors as they were last season?
Josh Freeman has established himself as a high quality quarterback for Tampa Bay. Freeman had a breakout season last year when he threw for 25 touchdowns and just six interceptions. Freeman had 259 yards passing last week, but the team just couldn’t establish a running game at all. Tampa Bay had a total of just 56 yards rushing last weekend. The Vikings front seven isn’t as good as it has been in the past, and Tampa Bay will need to be able to run the ball in this game. Earnest Graham led the team with eight receptions last week, but they’ll need to be able to get the ball down the field a little more frequently.
The Tampa Bay defense was much improved last year under the direction of Raheem Morris, who has always been a good defensive mind. The strength of the Bucs defense is their secondary, which is led by Ronde Barber and Aqib Talib. Gerald McCoy has helped the defensive line a great deal in the past year. Tampa Bay’s defensive front will be tested by the Vikings running game this week.
How bad was the Minnesota passing attack last week in San Diego? Donovan McNabb completed just 7 out of 15 passes for a total of 39 yards (that isn’t a typo) passing! A number this low is virtually unheard of on this level. Adrian Peterson led a Vikings rushing attack that put up 159 rushing yards, but they need some help from the passing game. Percy Harvin took the opening kickoff to the house last week, and I expect him to touch the ball a little more often this week in the offense.
Minnesota’s defense had a tough task last week when they were trying to slow down the powerful Chargers offense. Phillip Rivers put up 335 yards passing, but the Vikings did shut down the Chargers running game. Chad Greenway and the Henderson brothers did a nice job at the linebacker positions. Can Jared Allen and the Minnesota front pressure Josh Freeman and force him to make some mistakes this week?
The Vikings clearly have the better running game, while the Buccaneers appear to have the better passing offense. Both offenses are one-dimensional at this point, which makes me think this one stays low scoring.
Free NFL Pick: Bucs/Vikings under 41.5
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