Buccaneers vs. Vikings: Tampa Bay Defense Has No Answer for Percy Harvin
To be fair, no team has discovered the answer to Harvin's riddle in 2012. Through seven games, Harvin has put up numbers that have thrust him into the league's MVP conversation.
His 53 receptions are second in the NFL only to New England Patriots slot stud Wes Welker, who has 54 (Welker has been targeted seven more times than Harvin). He is the No. 5-ranked kickoff returner in the league, and only one of six with a touchdown. Harvin has also made quite an impact as a running back at times, tallying 73 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries this season.
The biggest thing Harvin has going in his favor, and the biggest reason why the Bucs (or any other team, for that matter) don't have an answer for him, is that he possesses elite quickness, change of direction skills and pure speed—not to mention excellent hands and a fearless heart.
Whether it be an end-around run, a pass over the middle or a dash across the field on a kickoff return, Harvin has raw skills and instincts that can't be taught. He isn't a big guy, at 5'11" and 184 pounds, but his quickness off the line allows him to beat press coverage, and once he's gotten one step past his defender, he's gone.
When Harvin lines up in the slot, there isn't a player in the NFL that can contain him. Whether it's a cornerback, safety or linebacker, every player that attempts to stick with him on the field ends up getting embarrassed.
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The Buccaneers come into this game fielding the No. 31-ranked passing defense in the NFL, allowing 323 yards per contest and eight touchdowns through six games. Eric Wright—one of the team's free-agent acquisitions this past offseason—has been supremely disappointing, and Aqib Talib is in the middle of a four-game suspension (h/t ESPN's Adam Schefter).
Veteran safety Ronde Barber still has all his wits about him, but he's not nearly as quick or fast as he used to be. Rookie Mark Barron has all the raw skills you can ask for in a safety, but he's still learning how to play his position in the NFL.
Harvin averages over seven receptions per game, but I'm expecting even more from him against this porous secondary on Thursday Night Football. I'm looking for Harvin to explode for at least 10 catches and one touchdown, and he will be the x-factor that keys the Vikings to victory.
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