When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers head to Minnesota to play the Vikings on Thursday Night Football, the eyes of the entire NFL will be fixated on this mid-week matchup.
Who doesn’t love football on a Thursday?
While the Buccaneers (2-4) aren’t playing as well as many experts thought they would this year, the exact opposite is true for the Vikings (5-2) and their improvements on both sides of the ball.
As much as Tampa Bay needs this win to get back on the right track, this will be the national stage that Minnesota needs to prove to everyone in the NFC North and the entire NFL that the team’s success is no fluke.
The Vikings are here to stay.
Who ya got?
Where: Mall of America Field, Minneapolis
When: Thursday, October 25 at 8:20 p.m. ET
Watch: NFL Network
Live Stream: NFL.com
Listen: Online at NFL Audio Pass
Spread: Vikings -6.5 (via Covers.com)
As much as the Vikings have dominated the teams they've beaten this year, the scores are always close. With a 6.5-point spread right off the bat, bettors should be a bit concerned.
Three of the Vikings’ five wins were by seven points or less, and coupled with the fact that Tampa Bay’s offensive unit has been on fire over the last two weeks, it proves this will be a tight matchup likely won by a field goal.
Over/Under: 42 (via Covers.com)
There was once a time when these teams would have fought to a 15-12 final score and the fans would have been satisfied, but those times are long gone now.
Tampa Bay has scored 38 and 28 points over the last two games respectively, and the Vikings have been no stranger to big offensive games this season either, scoring at least 24 points in five of their seven games this season.
Gamblers should expect at least 50 points to be scored in this game.
Key Injuries (via CBS Sports)
Jared Allen, DE, Probable
John Carlson, TE, Out
Percy Harvin, WR, Probable
Jerome Simpson, WR, Questionable
Antoine Winfield, CB, Questionable
Adam Hayward, LB, Probable
Vincent Jackson, WR, Probable
Brandon McDonald, CB, Probable
Fantasy Big Plays
Minnesota: Percy Harvin, WR
Despite being plagued by a knee ailment that has limited Percy Harvin’s practice schedule this week, young QB Christian Ponder has made it clear that Harvin is not only his favorite target, but his safety valve when he can’t find any other options.
Fantasy owners were scared last week by his four receptions, but his touchdown saved the day and this week’s matchup against the Buccaneers 31st-ranked pass defense makes Harvin a must start in any format.
Tampa Bay: Doug Martin, RB
While many fantasy owners have been disappointed by rookie Doug Martin since his hot start fizzled out, the young star is looking to bounce back against the Vikings 12th-ranked rush defense.
Martin has 161 yards on 29 carries and a touchdown over the last two weeks and looks to be back on the right track to fantasy success. With a close game on tap, each team will look to their running backs to ensure their success, and Tampa Bay will find consistency on the ground with Martin.
Prediction: Minnesota 26, Tampa Bay 24
With both defenses needing upgrades across the board, both teams’ offensive units will have field days Thursday night and make this one of the more interesting TNF broadcasts of the year.
As valiant of an effort as the Buccaneers will put forth, the Vikings are too good at controlling the clock on offense and getting off the field on third down defensively to allow Tampa Bay to walk into their building and steal the show.
This will be a field goal fest that will be won by the team that kicks the final game-winner to seal the game. That will be the Vikings. Sorry, Buccaneers fans.
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