Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Minnesota Vikings Point Spread – Pick Against the Spread

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4 SU, 4-2 ATS) vs. Minnesota Vikings (5-2 SU, 3-3-1 ATS)
NFL Week 8
Date/Time: Thursday, October 25th, 2012, 8:20 p.m. EST
Where: Mall of America Field at H.H.H. Metrodome, Minneapolis, Minn.
TV: NFL Network
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com

Point Spread: TB +6.5/Min -6.5
Over/Under Total: 41.5

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Two National Football League teams that used to play in the same division will renew a lost rivalry in primetime on Thursday Night Football this week, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers visit Mall of America Field to play the Minnesota Vikings in a week eight NFC clash on the NFL Network.

TB has the task of trying to go on the road and win a game over the league’s “surprise” team of 2012, the Minnesota Vikings, which was made even more difficult when the Bucs late rally fell short against the Saints last weekend, 35-28. Tampa went 1-2 in their three game home stand in October, and with a difficult schedule lying ahead (at Oak., SD, at Car., Atl., at Den., Phil., at NO, at Atl.) the Buccaneers almost have to steal one this weekend in the Metrodome in order to keep the glimmer of hope at 2-4 still lit.

The Minnesota Vikings won again last week, and many will argue that the, 21-12, victory over Arizona was one of the ugliest (209 total yards, 43 yards passing), but it’s still a win. For now the Vikings are winning, but with QB Christian Ponder starting to give back some of his early season progress, there are more and more people starting to question for how long.

If you were one of the cappers that thought the oddsmakers were a little slow to catch on to the Vikings this season, well then it’s safe to say they have caught up, setting the opening point spread with Minnesota as 6.5-point favorites at home. The early betting is all on Minnesota too, driving the number up to minus -7 at a few offshore sportsbooks and a couple of properties out in Las Vegas.

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The over/under total opened at 41.5 and has yet to move in either direction after a few days of being live.

For the Vikings on offense, it will be interesting to see how Ponder responds off of his worst performance of the season against Arizona hitting on 47 percent and throwing two interceptions. Ponder, who started the season with QB ratings of 105 and 114 before last week’ 35.5, has shown a steady decline since week four and needs to rebound in order to keep the Vikings on top of the NFC North.

The Vikings will likely need Ponder to improve this week because the Bucs are one of the league’s best defenses against the run (76 ypg - 3rd), so relying on Adrian Peterson to carry the load week in and week out is going to wear him and his surgically-repaired knee out sooner than later.

The Buccaneers offense will hinge on which Josh Freeman shows up, the one that struggled to start the season with four of his five interceptions and sub-par outings against good teams (NYG, Dal, Wash.), or the one that has thrown six TDs to one interception for nearly 750 yards in his last two games.

The real secret to the Vikings rise this season is defense, so Freeman will have his hands full in hostile territory in the dome. The Vikings are still stout in run defense (100 ypg - 12th), and they will bring a fierce pass rush led by Jarred Allen (6 sacks) if they can’t get a running game established or if they fall behind by big numbers early.

Tampa won in the Metrodome last season, a 24-20 triumph as 1-point underdogs last August. Tampa took the lead with a LeGarrette Blount TD with 31 seconds remaining to spring the road upset. The win was Tampa’s fifth straight over the Vikings dating back to 2001, they’ve also covered all five games too (5-0 ATS).

But home field has been a huge benefit, since the home team is 9-2-1 ATS in the last 12 meetings.

Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: TB is surely an up and coming team but as long as their secondary is as bad as it is, they aren’t going to beat a team on the road like the Vikings, who are well balanced and have athletic receivers that should have a banner day on Sunday. On the defensive side of the ball, Minny has looked great and is going up vs. a QB who makes a ton of mistakes in Josh Freeman. My money says to bet the Vikings minus the points.

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