With every passing week I become more and more surprised by these Vikings. In fact, I have pretty much given up trying to figure them out. Last year they won three games, and they were lucky to do that. With a win this week they will double that win total, and their season is only half over. It’s the most shocking story of this season to date, and given all that has happened in this strange year that’s saying something.
Despite the strong start the Vikings haven’t really accomplished anything. They have the same number of wins as Chicago, but the Bears have one fewer loss. Chicago has won four in a row, and the Packers, with one fewer win, have won two in a row and are heating up. If the Vikings can’t maintain their solid play then their strong start will mean nothing and they will find themselves on the sidelines again as the playoffs start. The obvious question bettors face, then, is whether what we have seen is truly sustainable.
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Buccaneers at Vikings Betting Storylines
The 5-2 record is impressive for Minnesota, but there are more than a couple of reasons to question what it really means. They have an impressive and surprising win over the 49ers, but beyond that the schedule has not been inspiring. They needed overtime to get past the Jaguars in their opener. Wins against Detroit, Tennessee and Arizona are devalued because all three teams have serious issues. Even worse, the two losses — at Indianapolis and Washington — were both against teams that they should have been able to beat. Their performance last week against the Cardinals was hardly dominating, either — especially in the second half. In other words, while the team has been playing well they haven’t been as good as their record might suggest. The second half of the season gets much tougher — after the Bucs they face potential playoff teams in the Seahawks, the Bears and Packers twice each, and Houston.
While that schedule gets tough later on, it would be a mistake to overlook this Tampa Bay team. A lot of 2-4 teams aren’t very good, but the Bucs are better than their mark suggests. They are coming off their best offensive performance of the year against the Saints, and they could have won that game if breaks and mistakes hadn’t sabotaged them. None of their four losses have been by more than a touchdown, and they haven’t been out of a game. Josh Freeman is gaining confidence with each outing, and he and Vincent Jackson made magic together last week. In short, it would be a mistake for bettors to make a knee-jerk judgment on this game because of the record.
Adrian Peterson is back — or close to it, anyway. His yards per carry are the best they have been since 2008, and he is on pace to amass his second best yardage total for a season. Despite a banged-up ankle he feels healthier than he has in a long while and it shows. That obviously adds swagger to the Vikings, and it is a big reason why Christian Ponder has been as effective as he has been — at least compared to expectations for him heading into the season. He’s the centerpiece of a rushing attack that is seventh-best in the league with 132.3 yards per game. That leads to the most interesting, and likely most important, matchup of this game. Tampa Bay has been lousy against the pass, but is the third-best team in the league against the run, allowing just 76 yards per carry. One of those sides isn’t going to be able to play their game, and the team that fails to is likely to lose.
As is so often the case in the NFL there is an injury situation to keep an eye out for on both sides. For Tampa Bay the news could be good. Da’Quan Bowers has been out all year after an Achilles’ injury, but the defensive end has been practicing, and he has the potential to play this week. His effectiveness would be somewhat limited because of the layoff if he does start, but he could provide both a boost and an added wrinkle to this team. The pass rush could certainly use some help, and that could only help their weak pass defense. For the Vikings the news is less positive — at least potentially. Both Christian Ponder and Matt Kalil were banged up against the Cardinals, and the status of both is uncertain. While both are quite possibly going to play, it would be a big hit to the team if their effectiveness is limited.
Buccaneers at Vikings NFL Odds and Betting Trends
The line is widely available with the Vikings favored by 6.5 points, with a full touchdown available in some spots. Action is evenly split between the two teams, so there is a good chance that the price will remain basically stable. It is quite unlikely that it will rise to the other side of the key number of seven. The total opened at 41.5, and has climbed slightly to 42.
The Bucs have won and covered each of the last five meetings between the squads, but since that stretches back to 2001 it really doesn’t mean much. They did meet last year, with the Bucs winning by four in Minnesota.
NFL Predictions: Buccaneers at Vikings Betting Picks
I like the Bucs in this one. The Vikings’ start has been impressive, but it seems to me that it will be tough to sustain. I like the Bucs’ offensively, and I like the chances of the Bucs being able to disrupt Minnesota’s run game, and therefore their offense. Tampa Bay is not only dealing with a very significant change in coaching philosophies but also having to rebuild and regroup after a truly disastrous season last year. They are growing into their own and will be a tough team going forward. I’ll happily take the seven points that is available, and I’ll take the “under” as well.
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